Heavy on style and badass women, but light on character development and substance, Navot Papushado’s Gunpowder Milkshake provides a fun diversion from the male-dominated glut of action movies, despite its faults.
Karen Gillan stars as Sam, an assassin working for The Firm, the organization in charge. Abandoned by her assassin mother Scarlett (Lena Headey) 15 years earlier, Sam is tasked with eliminating an accountant who stole money from The Firm by Nathan (Paul Giamatti), the head of HR. When she arrives for the job, she finds the man’s daughter Emily (Chloe Coleman) has been kidnapped and his theft is to pay her ransom. Sam decides she must intervene to save Emily and get away with their lives.
Along the way, Sam interacts with the three librarians: Anna May (Angela Bassett), Madeline (Carla Gugino) and Florence (Michelle Yeoh), who worked with Scarlett and provide help to Sam in her mission.
All the characters are fun little stereotypes that each have their little chances to shine, but offer little more than what is shown in this aside of their lives. There is obvious unresolved trauma of Scarlett’s (necessary) abandonment of Sam, but the resolution is barely acknowledged. Each librarian has their own nice of personality, but there is nothing deeper than what is clearly described on-screen.
Gillan proves herself to be a deftly capable action performer, while Headey acts as a steady compliment. The librarians act as a fun diversion, but Gugino is the only one with any specifically memorable traits, who makes the character interestingly her own. Coleman is similarly one-note, but seems to be enjoying herself, despite being a child in constant danger. For as wonderful as all the women are, the men are all forgettable. Ralph Ineson gets a nice monologue about his family, but his character is nothing outside that singular moment. Giamatti is in the same boat, as he does nothing to stretch his acting legs.
The action is fairly straightforward and holds a sense of realism. Yes, there are guns with knives attached, but the action relies much on the shoulders of Gillan using her wits to beat up the men she is against. When she is outmatched physically, she uses her environment to overpower her opponent. Each woman does not leave unscathed, as the fights do take a noticeable physical toll. While there is a fair amount of violence, it appears cartoonish rather than visceral.
Gunpowder Milkshake is a nice 114 distraction from your day. You can watch fantastic women run through waves of faceless men and leave with a smile on your face. If you lower your expectations, you might just enjoy yourself.