Gunpowder Milkshake is not a difficult sell. A crazy fusion of Kill Bill, Sin City, John Wick and Kingsman, it’s a no brainer for action fans – in both aspects of the term. It’s also certain to be an absolute crowd pleaser.
Game of Thrones star Lena Headey plays Scarlet, a career hitwoman who is forced to abandon her young daughter, Sam, when a hit goes horribly wrong. 15 years later Sam (Karen Gillan) has been raised within ‘The Firm’, an organised crime syndicate operating with the support of big corporate and led by a charismatic and ruthless director, Nathan (Paul Giamatti).
When Nathan’s directions lead to Sam killing a rival crime lord’s son, the threat of war looms and Sam finds herself the target of both sides. And with a young girl named Emily (Chloe Coleman) indebted to her, Sam turns to the only support she knows; The Sisterhood, where three of her mother’s old colleagues run an arms supply dealership under the guise of an exclusive library.
Taking cues from all of the aforementioned films, Gunpowder Milkshake hits the screen like an explosion of images leaping off the pages of a comic book. With a bright neon title card and a surrealistic noir-centric setting, the film kicks off with a thick slathering of highly stylised pulp fiction. Wearing a medley of influences on its sleeves, it dives into a cinematic world that is most often ruled by men and subverts the story into an all-female ass-kicking. Needless to say, the movie has a thinly veined feminist attitude underlying a highly stylised and ultra-violent story.
Karen Gillan continues to impress and proves to be a reliable leading action star following her energetic turns in the two recent Jumanji films. There’s no denying her appeal and her onscreen presence recalls badass heroines like Charlize Theron and Angelina Jolie. Joining her and Headey are Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh and Angela Bassett as the guardians of The Sisterhood.
They’re a fun, albeit mismatched, group of women whose prim and proper personas are not to be taken for granted. Yeoh and Gugino fit into the action like the seasoned professionals they are, coming to the party with a celebrated career of comparable titles. Gugino’s repertoire in particular makes her an ideal candidate for The Sisterhood – it’s impossible not to recall her similar turns in films like Sucker Punch, Watchmen and Sin City, not to mention Spy Kids. This is her jam and she relishes every morsel of it. Bassett is less convincing when it comes to the action, but she leans on her dependable, stone-faced demeanour to keep the ensemble balanced.
Director Navot Papushado, who impressed with his 2013 hit Big Bad Wolves, delivers the action with a steady choreography of violence and inventive kills. It’s a fiendishly gruesome display to be sure, and he serves it up with delight. Where he stumbles is in maintaining a consistent aesthetic. When the plot leap-frogs from one sequence to another, they may as well be alternate universes. At times the story seems to be planted firmly within a richly textured noir setting, before suddenly finding itself in more realistic environments devoid of fantasy. Some viewers might find this frequent shift in style jarring, but it’s unlikely to detract from the otherwise delicious barrage of action.
Gunpowder Milkshake unashamedly borrows from many films before it, yet nonetheless stands proudly as an all-female shoot-‘em-up that strikes hard and hits right in the jugular.
In cinemas: July 15
Starring: Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Michelle Yeoh
Directed by: Navot Papushado