Gunpowder Milkshake is based on the “John Wick with Women” formula
If you have ever seen John wick, the Samurai Where Leon: the professional, then you basically saw Milkshakes with powder, another action film featuring runaway killers.
The setup is basic: Karen Gillan is Sam, a woman for hire in Berlin. She is sent to murder a gangster’s son, then threaten his accountant – only the accountant stole the money to pay the ransom for his kidnapped daughter, Emily (Chloe Coleman). After things go south, Sam and Emily are on the run, crossing the parking lots and taking shelter with Sam’s mother, another hitman named Scarlet (Leana Headey).
You can probably guess what happens next. Villains are slaughtered, bones are crushed, blood fills the screen, and a corporate overlord (Paul Giamatti) sends dozens of ringers to take down our mother / daughter duo. It’s Hitman Cinema 101, with all the fedoras, trench coats, bold colors and silver balls, laughable one-liners, and Park Chan-Wook tributes you’d expect from this sort of thing, without the necessary inventiveness.
Milkshakes with powder is one of those movies where the director (Navot Papushado) thinks putting women in generic action roles makes the action less generic. Take, for example, a WickA style underground world ruled by three tough / beautiful icons, Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett and Carla Gugino. All the female power in the world can’t stop them from feeling like tired sidekicks, as the trio join Sam and Emily.
Papushado pays homage to Highlights choreography with a long, insane fight scene, filmed in super cool slow-motion shots lasting over ten seconds. He walks up and down the stairs, walks in and out of shelves, in hidden passages and through pools of blood. It’s a remarkable feat of action, Gillan’s performance, and physical endurance on the part of the cameraman. The soundtrack of “Piece of My Heart”, with the overwhelming voice of Janis Joplin blaring through the speakers.
Unfortunately, the film (currently in Netflix’s Top 10) can’t keep that same energy. After a lively first act with bare hands, all in neon light and a bewitching slow motion, the second act continues in a feminist sermon. Narrative momentum is sucked in faster than the title milkshake, and none of the coldly delivered speeches have a dramatic impact. Have we not passed the stage where women who laugh at men are seen as progress?
Wouldn’t it be much cooler if these women were allowed to make their own way, without all the riffs on other movies? Sure. But directors still think it’s new to picking women out of male roles. We have Ghostbusters: with women!, Oceans 11: with women!, Captain America: With women! and now John Wick: With women!
It’s time we let women kick ass in their own way, on their own terms.