AMSTERDAM: “Gunpowder Milkshake” director Navot Papushado is clearly a fan of the “John Wick” movies, in which Keanu Reeves stars as a stoic, multi-talented assassin facing off against hordes of other assassins in a series of staggeringly executed, stylishly shot fights, set in a world with its own hierarchy and rules, and a few neutral zones where violence is prohibited. And why not? The three “John Wick” movies are great.
In “Gunpowder Milkshake,” Karen Gillan stars as a stoic, multi-talented assassin facing off against hordes of other assassins in a series of stylishly shot fights, set in a world with its own hierarchy and rules, and a few neutral zones where violence is prohibited. Sadly, that’s where the similarities end.
Unlike the “John Wick” movies, the fight scenes in “Gunpowder Milkshake” are not staggeringly executed. They are clunky affairs that feel overstaged — like an amateur-dramatics group’s interpretation of a Hollywood fight scene. And Gillan, so popular as Nebula in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” is disappointingly uncharismatic as this movie’s heroine.
She plays Sam, the daughter of legendary hitwoman Scarlet (Lena Headey) who was forced to forsake Sam 15 years ago to go on the run, having killed someone who was ‘off-limits.’ In the present day, Sam is herself a stellar contract killer working for The Firm — the shadowy cabal for whom Scarlet was a regular Employee of the Month.
When a contract goes wrong and Sam kills the son of the boss of another criminal enterprise, The Firm decides it can no longer protect her. So she must also go on the run, accompanied by a young girl whose father she has just shot and who has no other relatives to look after her.
Pursued by a plethora of angry men (none of them a three-dimensional character or a worthwhile opponent), Sam and the young girl, and Scarlet (who turns up when Sam needs her most), and three female “librarians” (actually arms dealers for assassins) must fight for their lives. Women vs. men, see? But the women are the better fighters, yeah? It’s so transparent that it’s kind of insulting.
The movie is supposed to be a fun 90 minutes or so of great action sequences. Certainly, the lack of effort apparent in the dialogue and character building backs that up. And that’s fine. But when those sequences are not particularly thrilling (at no point is there any suggestion that the women are in danger of losing), what’s left?