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  • Nate Adams

Review: Hyper 'Gunpowder Milkshake' borrows from the best

Courtesy of Netflix


Attempting to boost the balance/subscriber sheets for an IP starving Hollywood streamer, the neon-coated and panache “Gunpowder Milkshake” doesn’t try to hide its roots or influences. Though it strives to find its own identity, “Gunpowder Milkshake” relies heavily on the narrative of “John Wick,” where a group of assassins live under a strict moral code of ethics and bylaws, to stand alone. However, Navot Papushado’s film has the benefit of a kick-ass cast featuring Karen Gillan, Angela Bassett, Lena Headley, Carla Gugino and Michelle Yeoh who soften the blow. Their talents aren’t wasted, but the looney tune presentation, and bumbling, cartoonish henchmen borrowed from the set of “Kill Bill” leaves plenty to be desired.

Gillan has become the sort of unsung heroine you sort-of love to root for as Nebula in “Guardians of the Galaxy” or the “Jumanji” franchise. Playing Sam, a generational killer eagerly following in the footsteps of her assassin mother Scarlet (Headey), Gillan is given the star vehicle she’s been yearning for, albeit, in a slightly more splashier setting. The versatile actress is given plenty of opportunities to thwart baddies in confined settings as her primary job working for “The Firm,” a shady organization where her tasks are communicated via a slimy handler named Nathan (Paul Giamatti), lands her in hot water. Sam’s last job went haywire after inadvertently killing the son of rival kingpin Jim McAlester (Ralph Ineson), except The Firm, who for years guaranteed unmitigated protection, is quick to throw her to the wolves.

If Nathan had his way, Sam would die for her cause, but a previous gig nabs her a different type of companion (and something worth fighting for): eight-year-old Emily (Chloe Coleman from “My Spy”) who was taken hostage by clueless bank robbers and, in a metaphor on the strange mother/daughter complex Sam faced growing up, felt obligated to save her. Where “Gunpowder Milkshake” co-writer Ehud Lavski, along with Papushado, make bigger strides is the introduction of three “Librarians” (Basset, Gugino, and Yeoh) whose arsenal of weaponry hide within the bindings of books. Bringing to mind the violent free sanctuary of The Continental, the “Library” provides the backdrop for a no-holds-bar, relentlessly violent slug fest among a group of sniveling bad guys sent by The Firm and McAlester. It’s tastefully bloody and occasionally yields a holler or two, not to mention the soundtrack pops at all the right moments (the use of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” is a highlight), but it gets intertwined within itself and goes overboard on the use of slow motion.

“Gunpowder Milkshake” certainly has style and the foundation for future installment is an exciting development for anyone who loves watching this ensemble crack skulls. Let’s hope the next venture, providing the film sees moderate success on Netflix, which it probably will, expands the characterization and universe in a meaningful way that doesn’t feel cheap. Lord knows this cast deserves it.

Grade: B-

GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE debuts on Netflix, Wednesday July 14th


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