TL;DR – Stylistically fascinating, tonally inconsistent, and yet still engaging
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid to see this film
Gunpowder Milkshake Review –
There has been a real struggle for independent stories to break through in a world of franchises and sequels. So when you see a new film emerge, you want to see it thrive. However, there are still as many hits and misses when you have new ideas as what happens when you are working with a solid franchise base. Today, we look at a film which has aspects of both sides, both the good and the bad.
So to set the scene, we open with a phone beeping off the hook as blood and bullets scatter the room. It is here where we are introduced to Sam (Karen Gillan), who is a cleaner for a secret organisation called The Firm. 15 years ago, a young Sam (Freya Allan) was abandoned at a diner by her mother Scarlet (Lena Headey) after a shootout with the Russian Mob. Now, Sam is here with her handler Nathan (Paul Giamatti), and she is on the last legs with the organisation. All she has to do is hunt down some missing money. What could go wrong?
To start with, I want to talk about everything this film did right. The first is that we get a visual spectacle, with frame after frame being simply stunning. You’ll first see this right at the start with Scarlet crying in the car, which is so captivating. There are visual moments where the cinematography and set construction combine in these beautiful moments throughout the film. Also, while you can feel the effect of John Wick all over the story, the contrast between The Firm and The Library gives you a lot of thematic ground to work with. This leads to the action sequences full of crunches of bones and ‘oh damn’. For example, there is a battle in a bowling alley, and you better believe they use what you think they will.
Where we see a mix of elements is in the acting. First, let’s be honest, I will always watch Michelle Yeoh kicking ass, and her with Angela Bassett and Carla Gugino make every scene they are in a joy to watch. Where the film is held back is the direction they have given Karen Gillan. She is so stern that there is no light and shade to her performance for much of the film’s runtime. We do see some glimpses of variety when Sam has to work with Emily (Chloe Coleman) when Sam’s hands are inoperable. In fact, Chloe Coleman was fantastic in every scene she is in.
While there is a lot about the film I liked, many issues presented themselves throughout the runtime. The big problem comes from the tone that is slapped haphazardly throughout the film. This is a film that jumps from slapstick comedic moments to heads being carved in. Can you make that tonal dissidence work? Yes. Does Gunpowder Milkshake pull this off? No. This makes elements of the film land … well, there is just no other word but frustrating. So we get many engaging action sequences, but the road to get to each of them is not always interesting.
So we get things like, a literal bus of goons, and fight scenes where people can’t use their hands. But then awkward close shots, and everyone being high on nitrous makes these odd dissident moments. A goon with hair always in their eyes juxtaposed with a hardened mob boss wanting to hunt people to ends of the Earth. It felt like this was a film that struggled to find what lane it wanted to be in.
In the end, do we recommend Gunpowder Milkshake? Well, that is a hard maybe. Look, if you are in parts of the world where this will drop on Netflix, then 100% give it a watch. Here in Australia, it is out in cinemas, and while I liked my time, I am not sure there was enough to recommend a full-priced ticket. I will say I respect that there is a Milkshake in the first 30 seconds of the film (and five in total for those playing at home). If you liked Gunpowder Milkshake, then I recommend to you Atomic Blonde.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Gunpowder Milkshake
Directed by – Navot Papushado
Written by – Navot Papushado & Ehud Lavski
Music by – Haim Frank Ilfman
Cinematography by – Michael Seresin
Edited by – Nicolas De Toth
Production/Distribution Companies – The Picture Company, Canal+, Ciné+ & StudioCanal
Starring – Karen Gillan, Chloe Coleman, Lena Headey, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, Carla Gugino, Paul Giamatti, Ralph Ineson, Ivan Kaye, Adam Nagaitis, David Burnell IV, Joanna Bobin, Freya Allan, Samuel Anderson, Mai Duong Kieu, Michael Smiley & Jack Bandeira
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: 18; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R