Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)



"If you screw this one up, they will give the kill order and I won’t be able to stop them.""If you screw this one up, they will give the kill order and I won’t be able to stop them."

“If you screw this one up, they will give the kill order and I won’t be able to stop them.”


What if John Wick had help in his murderous revenge rampage for the death of his furry gifted friend in the first film? Technically, Keanu had the audiences and animal lovers full support from that moment on – so maybe he didn’t need the extra help since he was already the most skilled assassin on the planet, the babayaga, the most feared person who can’t be killed once he see’s red. Regarding Gunpowder Milkshake, there is no singular event to fully back the protagonist on her journey of survival. Also, not sure where the name comes from or how it was decided on since a milkshake is in one scene of the film, shared between a 12-year-old Sam (Freya Allan), the adult version played by Karen Gillan, and her estranged mother Scarlet (Lena Headey). There is certainly plenty of gunpowder to go around, that part makes sense, for the most part. 

I bring up the John Wick franchise in comparison because the inspiration taken from that cold blooded assassin hellbent on revenge is heavily influenced here. Only Gunpowder Milkshake doesn’t give us a reason to root for Sam on her quest although being badass in her own right. Are we to root for her because she’s a badass for badass’s sake? Replace a furry companion with an 8-year-old Emily (Chloe Coleman) (who absolutely steals every scene she’s in) and make the protagonist a shell of the assassin they are looking toward as a gold standard. 


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The similarities and differences can be spotted between the two action films within every scene. The diner, where killing is off-limits and each person entering must submit their weapons to the held by the waitress, is exactly like the continental where no “business” can be conducted on the sacred grounds. Sam, just like John is more on the quiet side but can turn on the rage in a moments notice. There isn’t much development behind her character once the exposition is explained and her mother abandons her for a 15-year period. After their eventual reunion (not a spoiler, it’s in the trailers) both Sam and Scarlett get their moment of clarity as to why Scarlett did what she did. 

In Gunpowder Milkshake, Sam is a hired gun for a secret organization called The Firm, contracted by the head of the HR department Nathan (Paul Giamatti) and again similar to the High Table and Ian McShane’s Winston in the John Wick franchise.  When Sam kills the son of a powerful criminal, his army is out for revenge without the protection of The Firm. Simultaneously, Sam is contracted to kill Emily’s father for stealing money from The Firm, whom she didn’t know the reason for the theft until the shot to the abdomen left the chamber. 

Writer/director Navot Papushado takes theses inspirations and gives it a facelift, not so much in substance but in style. Stylistically, Gunpowder Milkshake is different from John Wick, so it has that going for it. Really, it’s just a matter of a different color palette and a vintage aesthetic. The vintage looking diner and cars from the 50’s and 60’s – even in the makeup, clothing style and hair. Beyond that pop, there’s not much else to write home about. Karen Gillam does the best with what she’s given. Her character is meant to be a silent stoic person be at times the writing of her character is more goofy than serious. if one thing is certain, Gillan knows how to put on a good action scene, something learned and mastered in her time as Nebula in the MCU. 

Thematically, Gunpowder Milkshake centers around the mother-daughter relationship. The relationship between Sam and Emily is more nuanced and developed compared to the relationship between Scarlett and Sam. Karen and Chloe have great chemistry together in how one reacts to the other’s actions. Even a sincere moment here and there of Sam teaching Emily how to drive while under heavy fire and limp arms due to toxin from the previous action sequence thanks to Dr. Ricky (Michael Smiley) (kind of ironic that his character used laughing gas to calm the nerves and ease the pain of his patients). 


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Again, the substance here is minimal, very little meat on this film’s bones, if its purpose was to be an entertaining action film made for enjoyment rather than thought, Gunpowder Milkshake did its job. The world building Navot Papushado creates is enough to demand a sequel but give us more. What makes John Wick so desirable and successful is part in due to the world building. In the first film alone, a rich mythology is created, alluded to but never shown fully. Give us more because there is potential here with a stronger script. It’s not bad by a long shot, its serviceable as an action film with action sequences that are more like this year’s Nobody and last year’s Extraction

Gunpowder Milkshake is a typical Netflix streamed film, its either an Academy Award contender or a complete flop with zero marketing behind it (America: The Motion Picture). Luckily, this film is in the middle of that sliding scale. If a sequel is announced, I’m certainly on board as long as the main cast returns especially Michelle Yeoh’s Florence and Angela Bassett’s Anna May.

Gunpowder Milkshake is written by Navot Papushado & Ehud Lavski, directed by Navot Papushado is Rated R and has a 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. Gunpowder Milkshake was released on July 14, 2021 in the United States and has a runtime of 1 hour and 54 minutes. Gunpowder Milkshake can be streamed on Netflix.  2.5 out of 5.


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