2.5 out of 5
John Wick. Atomic Blonde. Nobody. Gunpowder Milkshake?
Israeli-born director Nabot Papushado would like to add Sam of Gunpowder Milkshake to this lineup of butt-kicking, gun-foo-wielding anti-heroes. Few female leads have made it to this upper echelon within this genre. Still, audiences would like to know if this new entry can shoot her way into these hallowed halls? Karen Gillan plays the up-and-coming assassin who must reunite with her long-missing mother, Scarlet (Lena Headey), to protect an 8-year-old girl from “The Firm.” This crime organisation has kept Sam busy and employed over the years, but their relationship has been strained recently. As the mother/daughter team gets reacquainted, they must partner and reach out to a group of underground operatives played by Carla Gugino, Michelle Yoen and Angela Bassett.
Before we get too far into the story, it needs to be said that the workplace difficulties with The Firm came after Sam was sent on a routine mission. She merely needed to do an ‘in and out’ job of retrieving a bag of money. That is until the unlikely gun-for-hire’s path is entwined with a young girl named Emily (Chloe Coleman). Their immediate bond comes due to Sam seeing herself as parentless and someone in need of protection. At this point, things change from a quick snatch and grab to rescue mission. A decision that eventually upsets her employer and the Russian mob who merely want their money back.
John Wick managed to develop a masterful method of stylised violence, Nobody made every man a potential hero and Atomic Blonde proved that women could be just as convincing within this genre. With the standard being set by these previous films, Gunpowder Milkshake becomes quite convoluted and the screenplay proves to be clunky. Even though there are several well-choreographed fight scenes and a few creative set-pieces, these elements are not enough to salvage this storyline. Karen Gillan does her best to carry this potential franchise through her physical prowess in the fight scenes and humour. However, whether it was due to lack of training, poor choreography or ineffective editing, the fight scenes lack the kinetic energy of previously mentioned films. While there is enough blood, language, and mature humour sprinkled in to represent this genre, it is not one of the most notable inclusions.
At times, it all comes down to pacing as audiences will want the director to just get on with things. We all know why we are here… gun-foo, action set pieces and efficient story-telling. However, Nabot likes to take his time in moving the story along. As the director attempts to add colour and style with the neon sets are visually stunning. Since this is all meant to be eye candy, in the end, it proves to be more style than substance. This turns this into an overly long and convoluted action flick that would have benefited from a brutal session in the editing room. These narrative choices and lack of focus ultimately make Gunpowder Milkshake a well-made yet forgettable pop-corn schlock.
Reel Dialogue: Why do we care for the needy and helpless?
In this world of bad-girls and guns, director Nabot Papushado has created a curious concern for the needy and defenceless. Why should a hardened killer like Sam have any interest in the safety and well-being of 8-year-old Emily? Are these actions nothing more than the product of stardust and evolution? Interestingly, this well-worn “Saviour” trope is actually the echo of a grand story that God’s been writing since the beginning of time. It is new in human storytelling, but it is an element of our lives that continues to modern film.
This is a powerful message to consider through mankind’s timeline and one that has been supported by biblical considerations. One that could point us to the heart of a Creator who sent his own son to set aside his rights to serve our most profound needs of forgiveness and reconciliation with Him. If you want to look at a better and more robust narrative, give one of the biographies of Jesus a try. Luke is a great option.