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Just like its title, "Gunpowder Milkshake" is a thrilling combination of intense action and some very sweet moments, with a little comedy sprinkled on for extra flavor. The film, from director Navot Papushado, is incredibly stylish and contemporary and breathes new life into the action scene while also finding clever ways to honor the traditions of the genre.
The film follows a young hitwoman named Sam (Karen Gillan), who’s a top enforcer for a mysterious group called the Firm and is sent to recover some money that’s been stolen from them. But when she discovers that an 8-year-old girl named Emily (Chloe Coleman) is caught in the crosshairs of her mission, Sam decides to go rogue to protect the child. Making matters worse, she has a cavalcade of enemies on her tail after taking out the son of a very powerful mob boss. Desperate, Sam has to turn to her estranged mother, Scarlet (Lena Headey), and her deadly trio of associates called the "librarians" — Anna May (Angela Bassett), Florence (Michelle Yeoh), and Madeleine (Carla Gugino) — for help. What follows is an epic series of confrontations filled with imagination and a whole lot of fighting fun.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways "Gunpowder Milkshake" is evolving the action thriller genre.
All the sheroes
One of the most significant ways in which "Gunpowder Milkshake" changes the game for the action genre is that the story is almost entirely driven by women. The film features a whopping five lethal ladies plus a pint-sized shero who more than carries her weight along the way. In other words, when it comes to these gals, there’s no one who can stand in their path.
We’ve certainly seen female-driven action vehicles in the past. For example, series like "Alien," "The Terminator," "Star Wars," "Kill Bill," "The Hunger Games," and "Wonder Woman" all feature strong women front and center doing some serious work. And standalone flicks like "Jackie Brown," "V for Vendetta," "Mad Max: Fury Road," "The Old Guard," and "Black Widow" are just a few of the movies with leading ladies who are anything but damsels in distress.
But with "Gunpowder Milkshake," the tough team at the center of the action is entirely made of girl power. Together, these characters use wits, muscle, and their sizable skill sets to their advantage against an entire army of mostly nameless dudes. Not only is the film an explosion of women-powered force, but the relationships between the characters are also carefully explored, steadily revealing that while none of these women are perfect or traditional heroes, the strength of their determination and bond is just as powerful as any dude’s biceps.
An array of arms
Another aspect of "Gunpowder Milkshake" that’s sure to satisfy any action lover is the absolute buffet of weaponry on display throughout the film. Though some of the central characters certainly have their favorite fighting tools — like Madeleine, who’s quite fond of her ornate ax, and Scarlet, who has a blissful reunion with her precious pair of pistols in the library — they all get their hands dirty with some different pieces throughout the pic too.
The wide array of weapons in the film ensures that the characters all get to be quite creative with their attack modes while also showing off just how confident and adaptable they are while facing foes. Anna May, for instance, doesn’t hesitate to use that tiny hammer to the utmost advantage against an entourage of goons, and you’ve probably never seen a chain put to use quite as well as the scene where Florence destroys that poor sap on the second floor. Even the bookshelves are loaded with a bevy of hidden armaments, which takes the whole "the pen is mightier than the sword" saying to new heights.
Of course, there’s still a ton of heavy artillery throughout "Gunpowder Milkshake," so traditional shootout fans will have plenty to savor in the film. But there’s just as much fun to be had in seeing Sam take down a trio of colleagues with little more than a bowling ball and then flatten a guy’s face with a tooth-shaped cookie jar. The sheer breadth of distinctive death tools wielded by Sam and her fierce friends means that each and every bloody encounter is uniquely entertaining and that the film stands alone when it comes to its amazing arsenal.
The kid cruiser
Another element of "Gunpowder Milkshake" that truly elevates the action genre is its sensational take on the traditional car chase scene. Rather than barreling through a big city and wreaking havoc on every parked car in a 100-mile radius like we’ve seen in so many actioners past, "Gunpowder Milkshake" makes maximal use of some very tight quarters in a basement parking garage. Plus, there’s a very unusual person in the driver’s seat for all of the action.
That’s right, even though little Emily doesn’t have any previous driving experience and can’t even reach the pedals, she’s the one maneuvering the women’s way to victory against an influx of attackers, shifting and turning on command as a paralyzed Sam guides her through mowing down their newest nemeses and escaping this concrete death trap. Sure, there are still lots of pulverized cars and bodies along the way, but the sight of an innocent 8-year-old braving up and plowing into a car full of bad guys is still jarring and completely effective. No modern action thriller would be quite complete without a well-executed car chase scene, and "Gunpowder Milkshake" delivers something that’s both gnarly and completely inventive.
Some stylish skirmishes
Speaking of satisfying scenes of mayhem, another aspect of "Gunpowder Milkshake" that brings something new to the genre is its series of distinctive fight sequences. Throughout the film, audiences are treated to combat scenes that have high action and some pizzazz — and even a little comedy for good measure.
From start to finish, "Gunpowder Milkshake" compliments its complex heroes with visual drama, riveting slow-motion moments, and creative camera angles, especially when there’s fighting afoot. Some of the earliest melees are artfully left to the audience’s imagination, such as Sam’s hallway brush with the mobsters closing on a cutaway or the diner shootout near the beginning of the film (where Sam is separated from her mother) being heard and not seen. Others are given a few extra moments of time between the beatings to subvert viewers’ ordinary pacing expectations and to also add in a few chuckles. So, once you finally do get to watch the real carnage unfold, it’s even more invigorating.
All of the major fight scenes that play out before us are absolutely dynamic, from Sam’s swinging arm shootout at the dental office turned hitman hospital to the multi-layered storming of the library. Perhaps the most visually stunning moment of all is the one-shot slo-mo pan across the diner as Scarlet and the librarians methodically lay waste to all the mobsters who have Sam in their clutches.
Stylized fight scenes are certainly a hot commodity in Hollywood right now, with franchises like "James Bond" and "John Wick" ramping up the intensity of their big showdowns with clever camerawork, tight choreography, elegant color schemes and scenery, and rowdy musical scores. But "Gunpowder Milkshake" brings all of those elements together and manages to present its fight scenes with delightful unpredictability and even a bit of lawlessness. You might think you know what’s coming next, but the film always has a few surprises left up its sleeve, and no confrontation or twist is off limits. Thanks to the film’s combination of riveting protagonists, a car full of cool weapons, and no-holds-barred action, the fight sequences are all one of a kind.
An unexpected farewell
"Gunpowder Milkshake" is a game-changer all the way through, capping off with a conclusion that definitely keeps audiences on their toes. You might go into the final moments thinking that Sam is prepared to deliver on her promise to come for her estranged employers after they gave the mobsters the go-ahead to murder her crew because, hey, getting even is usually the name of the game in stories like this.
Instead, the final scenes upend expectations a bit while honoring the true nature and desires of its characters. See, amid all the deadly action in the film, we learn that Scarlet never wanted to leave Sam behind but had no choice after her thirst for vengeance got her into trouble with the wrong people. If Scarlet had just resisted the temptation to take one shot, well, Sam wouldn’t have grown up to become another gun-for-hire, and the librarians wouldn’t have spent so much time wondering what happened to their best friend. Now that Emily is in the picture — and with no one else to take care of her — Sam is faced with a similar choice. If she goes after the Firm to make good on her threat, she could find herself living a life on the run and separated from everyone she ever cared about … or perhaps even worse. So, instead, she pitches a truce in the hopes that she and Emily can set off with Scarlet, Anna May, and Florence for a bold new life together.
After all, they already got vengeance for the death of sweet Madeleine by taking down literally all of the mafia men, including the weaselly nephew who shot her, so getting payback against the Firm would only be the cherry on top. Plus, as satisfying as the previous fight scenes were, the film doesn’t need yet another sneak attack sequence or some sprawling confrontation with those sniveling elites to present a fitting conclusion to the story, as much as we might expect such a thing based on action thriller convention. It’s actually the choice not to go to war and instead opt for a life of peace that really elevates the characters’ journey in the end and sets the film apart. Of course, "Gunpowder Milkshake" still leaves the path wide open for the ladies’ free-wheeling deadly adventures to continue down the road, but for now, they’re all content to forego the fracas and enjoy their hard-won companionship at long last.