An expertly-stylized Tarantino-like thriller with humor and humanity aplenty. Netfilx.
“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.” Vincent Vega (John Travolta), Pulp Fiction
Not this year or many others will you see such a successfull thriller-satire with humor that takes away from neither the robust bloody plot nor the affecting love of tough mother and daughter and their extended family. Sam (Karen Gillan—channeling Jennifer Lawrence) had been abandoned by her assassin mother and years later has become as proficient as she. They are all locked in a death struggle with The Firm, a group of powerful men who could easily stand for paternalistic males.
Gunpowder Milkshake has more talented actresses and creative blood spilling than any other gangster film in recent memory. However, along with a close-to-surfeit of artsy shots such as slo-mo dollying scenes of guns, knives, and deaths comes some not-so-incisive dialogue between mother, Scarlet (Lena Headey), and daughter, Sam, as they work through Sam’s bitterness and Scarlet’s regrets.
Add to the emotional mix eight-year-old Emily’s (Chloe Coleman) loss of her dad to Sam’s gun and her immediate bonding with Sam without Emily knowing Sam was his murderer. The crazy, sometimes inscrutable underworld could be compared to John Wick’s, including a library sequence rivaling even the most sumptuous Wick hotel set piece. As for the soundtrack from Bobby Darin to Janis Joplin, the synch of the songs to meaning is a pleasure.
As we are reminded more than once explaining any of these heartbreaks and deaths is complicated, but somehow writer/director Navot Papushado and writer Ehud Lavski make it logical if not poetic. The kind of satire is similar to that of Quentin Tarantino, whose Pulp Fiction $5 shake sequence is referenced in the title (see above) and whose off-handed humor lends gravity even when it is not required.
Set pieces of balletic proportions are many, one for instance in that beautiful library where books and bullets combine for an ingenious allegory of innocence and experience, therefore glossing Emily’s coming of age and Sam’s growth to adulthood. Yet it’s not difficult to see that the women participating in the mayhem (including Gillan, Headey, Michelle Yeoh, Carla Gugino, and Angela Bassett) represent the new wave of combatants in a culture war where women are slowly but surely achieving equality if not revenge for their thousands of years of subjugation.
In general, Papushado references flashy killer movies other than Pulp Fiction and John Wick, such as the colors of Nicholas Winding Ren’s very neon Drive and choreographed gunplay in John Woo’s The Killer, while retaining a lightheartedness solely this picture’s.
Of course, the mayhem with its countless loss of thug-men and minimal loss of women speaks to the fantastic difficulty of women eventually gaining parity. Like the recent Black Widow, our artists must write largely to gain a foothold on justice. In fact, make this film a companion piece to BW, and you’ll have a wildly amusing evening of distaff mayhem.
Meanwhile, taking a cue from the titular milkshake, this comic thriller will make you exclaim what a good taste for the price (“Netflix).
Scarlet: You are an incredibly impressive young woman. There's not a single person on Earth I'd rather kill people with.”
Sam: “Thanks, Mom
Director: Navot Papushado (Big Bad Wolves)
Screenplay: Papushado, Ehud Lavski
Cast: Karen Gillan (Avengers: Endgame), Lena Hedley (Queen Gorgo)
Run Time: 1h 54m
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com