John Wick showed studios that the assassin story is alive and well. The only question would be, who would attempt to replicate the formula successfully. Unfortunately, there have not been many from my perspective that have hit the mark. However, that may have changed with the release of Netflix’s latest film, Gunpowder Milkshake. A film that offers a dazzling, fresh look at the female assassin while offering homages to its female assassin predecessors, Léon and La Femme Nikita.
From the premise alone, the homages to both films mentioned before are evident. Gunpowder Milkshake follows Sam (Karen Gillan), a contract killer for The Firm, a group of anonymous men who hide in the shadows while Nathan, a handler, gives the orders. In the film’s opening flashback, cinephiles discover that Scarlet (Lena Headey), Sam’s mother, who had been The Firm’s top killer until she screwed up and went on the run, left Sam in the care of Nathan. He ultimately assisted in raising and molding Sam into the assassin she is today. History repeats itself as 15 years later, Sam accidentally kills the wrong person – the son of a top dog in the crime world and chooses to help Emily, a young girl The Firm has marked for death.
While the 110-minute run time may feel bloated at times, it does leave plenty of opportunities for its action sequences to be fully realized, and boy are they ever! Including its grand finale at a library, Gunpowder Milkshake allows these badass women to shine and are given enough time in their scenes to show their skills.
While the film offers up an exceptional amount of action set pieces, its director Navot Papushado’s choice to sprinkle in a surprising amount of comedy takes the movie to the next level. Throughout the film, there are fight sequences blended in with some slapstick comedy, including one where Sam’s arms are momentarily paralyzed, in one, if not the best, action sequences in the film.
Outside the comedy used within its action set pieces, audiences cannot ignore the comedic chemistry between Karen Gillan and Chloe Coleman. The two share some of the most significant LOL moments of the film, and as a sequel has already been greenlit, I cannot wait to see what these two offer up in the follow-up.
The cast of Gunpowder Milkshake is an embarrassment of riches. Karen Gillan is tremendous as Sam. Dealing with the childhood trauma of being left by her mother leaves Sam as robotic as her MCU counterpart Nebula. Still, Gillan can mold Sam into a sympathetic, charismatic assassin by film’s end and leave cinephiles longing for more Gillan-starring properties. I’m looking at you, Pirates of the Caribbean. As mentioned before, Gillan and Chloe Coleman, who is best known for her role in the 2020 film, My Spy, share an insane amount of chemistry that culminates in some of the most heartfelt and poignant moments.
Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeough, and Carla Gugino lead the supporting cast and, as expected, are charismatic anytime they enter the room. It’s hard not to long for more adventures with these women, and Paul Giamatti is reliable as always.
Where the film does suffer is while some world-building is done, there is not enough to understand The Firm’s ultimate motivations and why they exist entirely. A question that I suspect will be answered in future entries. Along with that, the film’s editing comes off quite choppy at times and, with its run time, could have benefited from another 10 minute cut of the final product.
There is no denying that cinephiles will leave Gunpowder Milkshake overjoyed and enthralled by its execution, action set pieces, and performances. It’s everything I love about action films and one that will leave you longing for a refill of that milkshake.