Gunpowder Milkshake: A Stylish Genre-Blender

(L-R): Karen Gillan as Sam and Chloe Coleman as Emily in Gunpowder Milkshake. Photo credit Reiner Bajo/© 2021 STUDIOCANAL SAS, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Gunpowder Milkshake is a stylish female-driven Tarantino-esque genre-blending thriller that provides a new approach to the assassin genre.

Sam (Karen Gillan) has known nothing but life with The Firm since her elite assassin mother, Scarlet (Lena Headey) abandoned her when she was 12 years old. To no surprise, Sam has followed in her mother’s footsteps and she’s become something of an assassin in her own right. Trust me when I say that you do not want to get on her bad side. The Firm turns to her when it comes to cleaning things up and she is very good at her job. Like mother, like daughter.

It’s been 15 years since her mother left her at the diner. And when we see Sam, she’s on a mission to get back money stolen from The Firm. Easier said than done, right? Well, it turns out the guy who has the money just had his daughter kidnapped by another group of people. There’s no way this is going to end well but Sam trusts her gut to save Emily (Chloe Coleman). It’s not unfair to say that the dominoes start falling after Sam decides to save Emily. Most surprisingly, Sam ends up reuniting with her mother before they join forces with The Librarians: Florence, (Michelle Yeoh), Anna May (Angela Bassett), and Madeleine (Carla Gugino). Working together won’t come easy–not with Scarlet having abandoned them earlier. And yet, it gives us plenty of opportunities to watch them kick some ass!

At its core, this is a film about Sam, Scarlet and Emily. Sam makes decisions that her mother never thought to do fifteen years earlier. Because of this, Emily will at least have a future. Maybe not the future that she wanted but it’s a future. The studio has already announced that a sequel is in development but my original thought was that the ending could go either way. Sequel, it is! That being said, this original film stands well enough on its own in a reboot-and-remake-crazed world. While I’m glad to hear that a female-driven thriller is getting a sequel, I’m just happy to see content like this film being greenlit. Studios need to be taking more risks of this nature!

We’ve seen Karen Gillan kick ass in the Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers, and Jumanji movies. What Gunpowder Milkshake does is give her a leading role that showcases her ability to both be vulnerable and kick ass on screen. I don’t know about you but I cannot imagine anyone else playing Sam. Chloe Coleman co-starred last year in My Spy and while she’s young, she’s an action star in the making. Ultimately, the film’s best action comes during the second hour at The Library. Honestly, this is going to go down as one of the best set pieces of the year. There’s nothing like seeing women come together and kick some ass.

Tonally, Papushado pays homage to his favorite filmmakers–among them are the likes of Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers. You can’t go wrong with the silent comedy greats Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin either. While Gunpowder Milkshake is ultimately an assassin film, there’s a nice blend of the spaghetti western, film noir and Samurai/Ronin genres. It can certainly be tricky to work a number of genres into the film but they get the job done.

The film may get violent but Navot Papushado and Ehud Lavski’s script manages to find the absurdity of it all. Even when you don’t expect it, they find away to get absurd. When you’re using the library as a metaphor, there’s no shortage of humor available. It is in this manner that Frank Ilfman’s score delivers a retro vibe to it. Let’s just say that it’s a nice blend of Ennio Morricone, Stelvio Cipriani, Bernard Herrmann, and Ilfman himself. There’s so many scenes were the score crushes it. The clinic scene is among them.

The film is careful in not telling us where or when it takes place. But ultimately, this doesn’t matter because of the characters. They do make great use of Berlin for both locations and a studio. Having Berlin native David Scheunemann serve as a production designer is a blessing in disguise. Who better for designing a production than someone who knows the city?!? The two main sets being used are a 1950s American diner (a replica, of course) and The Library, which is used as a base (Bode Museum serves as the exteriors). Behind the camera, veteran cinematographer Michael Seresin brings some gorgeous lighting to the film.

Gunpowder Milkshake may be an absurdist blend of genres but this film brings about a new meaning to “smash the patriarchy.”

DIRECTOR: Navot Papushado
SCREENWRITERS: Navot Papushado & Ehud Lavski
CAST: Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Carla Gugino, Chloe Coleman, Ralph Ineson, Adam Nagaitis, Michael Smiley with Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett, and Paul Giamatti

Netflix releases Gunpowder Milkshake in theaters and streaming on July 14, 2021.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.