If you’re going to do an insanely over-the-top, deeply stylized, bullet-riddled and female-centric riff on the “John Wick” movies, you might as well give it a fantastically ridiculous title, so allow me to introduce you to “Gunpowder Milkshake,” and please leave all logic and reality at the door as you settle in for a violent slice of Netflix original movie entertainment featuring an outstanding cast of first-rate actors clearly having a great time shooting up the joint.
To quote Vincent Vega in “Pulp Fiction,” “That’s a pretty f---ing good milkshake. I don’t know if it’s worth five dollars, but it’s pretty f---ing good.”
Director/co-writer Navot Papushado serves up heaping helpings of slo-mo shootouts and neo-noir visuals as we meet Karen Gillan’s Sam, an elite assassin who works for The Firm, a shadowy group of powerful gangsters headed by Paul Giamatti’s Nathan. Like her estranged mother Scarlet (Lena Headey), whom she hasn’t seen in 15 years, Sam hasn’t met a deadly assignment she couldn’t handle, even if it means taking on three ruthless henchmen in a bowling alley, which gives her an opportunity to use a bowling ball as a dangerous weapon and also to grab a shiny bowling jacket from behind the counter and wear it for the rest of the movie because it looks kinda cool.
As usually happens in movies like this, Sam kills the wrong people. We know this because Nathan tells her, “You killed the wrong people.” She’s no longer under the protection of the Firm and is in fact now a target — and things are even more complicated because Sam has rescued an 8-year-old girl named Emily (Chloe Coleman, adorable) from kidnappers and she’ll do anything to protect Emily.
You know how they have those Continental Hotels in the “John Wick” movies, where killers of all kinds can seek solace? The twist in “Gunpowder Milkshake” is there’s a library — an enormous, ornately appointed, multi-storied library — that’s actually the headquarters of the Sisterhood, a group of accomplished assassins. When you say, “I’d like to exchange some books,” at the library, they know you’d like to trade in some hot weaponry for a batch of new and untraceable guns.
Turns out Sam was basically raised by the leaders of the Sisterhood after her mom flew the coop. Her “aunts” include Angela Bassett’s Anna May, Michelle Yeoh’s Florence and Carla Gugino’s Mathilde, and didn’t I tell you this movie has a wonderful cast? And of course, it’s hardly a spoiler alert to let you know Lena Headey’s Scarlet emerges from the shadows after all these years to join the fight to protect her daughter. (When Scarlet sees Sam with little Emily, she asks if she’s a grandmother, and she’s greatly relieved to learn that’s not the case. I don’t think this family is ready for a third generation.)
If you’ve always wanted to see world-class actors such as Michelle Yeoh and Angela Bassett and Lena Headey wielding sawed-off shotguns and oversized handguns and taking on more than a dozen henchmen with bullets flying everywhere as the Animals cover Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” on the soundtrack, “Gunpowder Milkshake” is here to make that wish come true.