Karen Gillan and Chloe Coleman standing in an elevator in Gunpowder Milkshake

REVIEW: Netflix’s Gunpowder Milkshake Squanders Its Phenomenal Cast

2/5 library books.

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Netflix’s latest action thriller Gunpowder Milkshake should be an absolute blast. After all, who doesn’t want to watch a women-led version of John Wick that features fan-favorite actors like Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, Carla Gugino, and Paul Giamatti? Unfortunately, Gunpowder Milkshake lacks any of the verve, originality, or pathos of Keanu Reeves’ assassin-filled universe. The result is a film that utterly lacks soul, stakes, and any narrative drive whatsoever. What a waste.

Sam (Karen Gillan) was only 12 years old when her mother Scarlet (Lena Headey), an elite assassin, abandoned her in a local diner. In her stead, Sam was raised by The Firm, the same amorphous crime syndicate that employed her mother. Raised by crime lord Nathan (Paul Giamatti), Sam has turned into an elite assassin of her own, who seemingly has zero questions about her mother’s whereabouts or The Firm’s role in her abandonment.

When a high-risk job goes wrong, Sam is forced to choose between following The Firm and protecting Emily (Chloe Coleman), a precocious 8-year-old girl. As Sam and Emily go on the run from The Firm’s team of killers, they seek refuge with the Librarians (Angela Bassett, Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh), fellow women assassins who were loyal to Sam’s mother. The Librarians operate out of a gorgeous library, where shelves are lined with books hiding all sorts of weaponry and treasures.

**Some spoilers follow!**

If a world of highly literate and badass female assassins sounds intriguing, then lower your expectations. There is little to no explanation of who these women are, how they got this gig, or why they are helping Sam. The film alludes to a time when Sam and her mother lived at the library (make that movie, please), but Sam seems to have little to no memory or emotional attachment to any of these women.

The same can be said for Scarlet, who shows up midway through the movie to support her daughter. It turns out that Scarlet didn’t go on the run, but has been living in the same nondescript city as her daughter. And she never tried to reunite with her because … reasons? Instead, Headey’s Scarlet offers quips and jokes to her estranged daughter, which land like a lead balloon.

The characters run from fight to fight, a hail of slow motion bullets in their wake. But there’s an utter dearth of emotional stakes among this gallery of sociopaths that can’t help but alienate viewers. And honestly, it wouldn’t take much to put a measure of emotion into this film. In contrast, John Wick establishes its title character as a man grieving the death of his wife, followed by the puppy she gifts him. That first 10 minutes of the film builds a foundation from which John goes on a scorched-earth vendetta.

Clearly, Gunpowder Milkshake is striving for the same ultra-stylized world as John Wick, but it fails on that count, as well. Every idea, costuming choice, and action set piece seems cribbed from a better movie, with the film borrowing from everything from Drive to The Professional. Director Navot Papushado (Big Bad Wolves) fails to imbue the movie with any originality, and his one good idea (the Librarians) is too thinly drawn and barely given any screentime. It’s a stunning waste of the trio of actors, who clearly need their own spinoff helmed by anyone else.

There are a handful of entertaining action sequences in the film, but Gunpowder Milkshake fizzles out due to its relentless aping of better movies. It’s a colorful but sugar-free concoction that fails to excite in any real way. What a phenomenal waste of talent, time, and money.

Gunpowder Milkshake is currently streaming on Netflix.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.