Sam is an assassin, born and bred, raised by her mother and aunts to be a one-woman army. The company that employs her as a problem-solver, known simply as The Firm, takes care of its people from birth to the grave – usually arranging for their “retirement” if something goes wrong.
Something went wrong with Sam’s last assignment and the only son of a powerful kingpin is dead. Thankfully it’s nothing her boss can’t clear up. Of course that was before Sam’s redemption assignment was complicated by an amateur kidnapping.
Now Sam has found herself as the unwitting protector of an innocent girl and caught between two sides of a gang-war that threatens to wreck the underworld. In order to survive, Sam will have to seek out the assistance of her aunts and the last person she ever expected to ask for help; her estranged mother, who has been on the run from The Firm for 15 years because of her own principled stand.
Gunpowder Milkshake has gotten a good deal of pre-release buzz due to its unusual distribution plan, which has it being released directly to Netflix in the United States at the same time it opens in traditional movie theaters in some countries worldwide. It’s also gotten a lot of hype because there are already plans for at least one sequel and talk of a trilogy. It is well deserved, because this movie is simply fantastic.
Karen Gillan is a wonder as Sam, which will not surprise anyone familiar with her work as Amy Pond on Doctor Who or as Nebula in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Karen has been a fantastic supporting player for years and deserved an action role that put her front and center while playing to her talents as a comedian. With Gunpowder Milkshake, Gillan finally has such a role.
The rest of the ensemble is equally amazing which, again, is not surprising. Lena Headley excels at playing morally conflicted mothers, but gets to do far more fighting as Sam’s mother Scarlet than she ever did as Cersei Lannister. The always excellent Angela Bassett shines as Anna May, as do Carla Gugino and Michelle Yeoh, who make up the rest of the trio of mercenaries/librarians who raised Sam in Scarlet’s absence. Chloe Coleman, who plays the girl Sam risks everything to protect, is a promising newcomer, avoiding the twee performance one might expect of a typical child actor and displaying some amazing comic timing for one so young.
The direction by Navot Papushado is top-notch and the action sequences well-executed, evoking memories of the best Jackie Chan movies with how it balances comedy and action. The final scene is perhaps the most memorable, as Papushado seems to parody the excessive slow-motion common to Zack Snyder films. Ironically, Papushado is more effective in using the technology, resulting in an action sequence that seems to be everything the fight scenes in Sucker Punch should have been, minus all the objectification.
The script, co-written by Papushado with Ehud Lavski, does not go over-the-top with its comedic elements, but there are a number of bits that are fun while still being played completely straight. Chief among these are the scenes where Anna May unleashes the kind of profanity reserved for Samuel L. Jackson characters on a bad day and immediately, but precisely, cleans up her language, without repressing her anger after being reminded of the present of a little girl.
While Gunpowder Milkshake stands up on its own, the ending leaves ample room for expansion upon its weird little world. Hopefully this will be the first of many installments. This is a must-see for all fans of quality action movies.