I’m a sucker for well-directed action films that have their own style, and Netflix’s “Gunpowder Milkshake”, directed by Navot Papushado, certainly has plenty of it. It’s basically John Wick with some elements of the style of James Gunn, with a bit of the tone of “Pulp Fiction” mixed in.
The film follows Sam (Karen Gillan) an assassin who works for the shadowy organization The Firm, whose assassin mother, Scarlet (Lena Headey) abandoned her 15 years ago. One day, she gets a mission from her adoptive father and head of The Firm’s HR department Nathan (Paul Giamatti) to kill an accountant from the clean side of the business who stole a sizeable amount of money from them. She tracks down the accountant, named David (Samuel Anderson), and learns only after she mortally wounds him that he only stole the money because his daughter, Emily (Chloe Coleman), was being held hostage by a bunch of goons. Sam tracks them down and saves Emily, but David succumbs to his wounds.
However, things get complicated when it is revealed that Sam killed the son of Jim McAlester (Ralph Ineson), the head of a powerful crime organization, and she spends the next half of the movie avoiding his seemingly-endless stream of goons, which I must point out is basically the same exact plot as John Wick 1, but I suppose there was nothing else to do after Emily was saved. Sam eventually meets up with her estranged mom, and they get support from her former associates Madeleine (Carla Gugino), Florence (Michelle Yeoh) and Anna May (Angela Bassett), who also run a library.
This film’s style and good action make it stand out, with Papushado making good use of environments and lighting in his fights, and he utilizes a variety of different types of combats and weapons. One of the best scenes in the film takes place in a hospital in which Sam must fight goons she previously injured, with the catch that they paid off the doctor of the facility (Michael Smiley) to inject a drug into Sam’s body that makes her lose control of parts of her body, and will eventually make her go unconscious. It’s a messy, sloppy fight, but it’s unique and has stakes, and really forced Papushado to plan the fight around the limitations of the scenario. And I really like how he wasn’t afraid to have the protagonists take hits and get banged up — this isn’t a film where the main character is invincible and never gets injured, which make the fights more believable and easier to get invested in.
While the film’s story and characters might be shallow, it’s style and flare make it a worthwhile experience. If you like James Gunn or Edgar Wright films, this film is probably for you.
“Gunpowder Milkshake” (2021) gets an 8/10