Review: Gunpowder Milkshake with Karen Gilliam is familiar but fun

Gunpowder Milkshake (MA15+, 104 minutes)

3 stars

If you're looking for originality, Gunpowder Milkshake doesn't have much. It's a grab bag of tropes, cliches and influences, from John Wick to spaghetti westerns to killer-protects-kid yarns, though it does have the odd spark of originality. The script, by Navot Papushado (who also directed) and Ehud Lavski is functional rather than inspired, without any take-out witticisms, and a lot of it doesn't bear scrutiny, even by the loose standards of this kind of movie.

Karen Gillan and Chloe Colemann in Gunpowder Milkshake. Picture: StudioCanal

Karen Gillan and Chloe Colemann in Gunpowder Milkshake. Picture: StudioCanal

But despite all this, there are things to enjoy and be entertained by - and I did and I was.

One aspect that does make Gunpowder Milkshake distinctive, and successfully so, is in its female focus. If you enjoy the kind of violent action movies this film echoes, Gunpowder Milkshake should provide pleasure and its women versus the patriarchy theme is an effective twist, a welcome break from the standard testosterone-fest. I saw it in a sparsely populated Dendy cinema: a large, responsive audience to its set pieces would have added to the fun.

When Sam was 12, her mother Scarlet (Lena Headey) was forced to abandon her in The Diner (as the place is always called : it's a major setting in the movie). Scarlet worked as an assassin for a mysterious male-run crime organisation called The Firm (another of those definite-article descriptors, and not the last) and Sam was placed in its care, which doesn't sound like the best of maternal choices, but needs must.

Attempts at running gags, like Emily's precision about her age, are mostly lame but on the plus side the production design and cinematography are striking: this could be an adaptation of a graphic novel (but isn't).

Not surprisingly, given the circumstances, the adult Sam (Karen Gillan) followed in her mother's footsteps and, 15 years later, is a top hit woman for The Firm. After she uncharacteristically botches a job, Sam has two problems. Not only is she facing the wrath of The Firm, but she feels obliged to assume the care of eight-year-old Emily (Chloe Coleman), whose father she has killed (unbeknownst to the child).

Facing an adversary with huge resources, she makes her way to The Library. As you might have guessed, this is no ordinary book repository, The Librarians (Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, and Carla Gugino) remember her coming in as a child with her mother but are wary. Eventually, they allow her to swap her weapons for books (classic titles, each of which opens up to reveal a weapon). But will they do more? And will Scarlet's maternal instincts eventually resurface and bring her back?

Attempts at running gags, like Emily's precision about her age, are mostly lame but on the plus side the production design and cinematography are striking: this could be an adaptation of a graphic novel (but isn't).

The women are all very good - as is young Coleman - even if their characters' range is somewhat limited and their material isn't always of top quality. Paul Giamatti does a fine job as Sam's handler Nathan, conveying both regard and ruthlessness.

Gunpowder Milkshake is far from the worst way to pass a couple of hours.

This story Female-focused action film is fun first appeared on The Canberra Times.