One of Netflix’s newest releases, Gunpowder Milkshake debuted July 14 with a lot of color and blood. With new to the mainstream writer and director, Navot Papashudo and an absolutely star studded cast, Gunpowder Milkshake had all the production hallmarks of a smash hit. Smash it was but hit? The Conservative Critic will let you know by asking: Is it entertaining? Does it have intellectual/artistic value? And most important of all: Is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: Gunpowder Milkshake
Overall Rating: Fine+
Gunpowder Milkshake is a pulp-action following a young woman, Sam, played by Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jumanji) who was born into a network of hit-women serving a criminal syndicate known as “the firm.” Sam’s life is thrown into jeopardy when she makes the fateful choice to spare the life of one of her jobs and a young girl is left holding the proverbial cards. Sam connects with her fellow hitwoman to protect the girl and save herself from the baddies in a long series of violent fights all lit technicolor with a lot of brightly colored blood.
Gunpowder Milkshake was not unenjoyable and had some bright originality but drawing from classic styles dipped into the derivative. With a very clear “women are good and men are bad” message but a healthy appreciation for the second amendment, the propaganda is present but a bit of a wash with wins on both sides.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: A bit repetitive
Gunpowder Milkshake has plenty of action but even with sequence after sequence of high stakes fighting and massacres it tends to drag a little. The sequences tend to all look pretty similar after the first five or so and even the major crescendo shoot-out style finale fight goes on for a pretty long time.
Additionally, there is a lack of character development which normally suits a pulp-action fine but in this case leaves viewers not quite caring enough about the characters to feel the amount of thrill they might have otherwise felt if there were a bit higher emotional stakes.
Overall there is fun fight choreography, cheeky costumes and plenty of fun to make the film watchable but it does lean on the side of dull and is definitely suitable to watch with breaks on a slow night.
Does it have intellectual/artistic value?
Gunpowder Milkshake has the benefit of being an original screenplay – a rare bird in today’s Hollywood – which gives it an extra boost of credibility. There is a lot of originality in the crafting of the cinematography and general artistic direction. Papushado creates a world that appears to be based on a graphic novel but is actually a completely original universe. Each element of the film feels quite carefully constructed as if it was serving an imaginary fan base.
The choreography, set design, storyboarding and costuming are all very well done and well thought. The bright colors mixed with several eras of vintage (we have 80s, we have 60s we have 20s it is chaotically wonderful) are inviting and playful.
The performances of the star-packed cast are fun and light and exactly what the film needs to elevate it from obscurity to a mainstream. As a personal note, I am a huge Karen Gillan fan. I think she is an underrated star who never has taken off quite to the level she should be (I can’t stand that she’s in Avengers but completely unrecognizable with barely any screen time. She should be the star). She is in her element in this film performing half comedy and half bad a** video game character (think if Lara Croft became a character in Street Fighter). Her supporting castmates, Lena Hadley (Game of Thrones, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), Carla Guigiano (Spy Kids, Watchmen), Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians, Star Trek), and Paul Giammatti (John Adams, Jungle Cruise, everything else in the world) are all deep in their elements as seasoned pulp-action stars with significant graphic novel/gaming film style credentials. There are no performance disappointments and might I just say, I love seeing Lena Hadley more and more these days (GOT nerds: I was team Cersei and I’ll never be sorry).
The biggest drag on the film’s artistic credibility, which without having looked prior to this review I know will give them a pretty big hit with other critics, is how derivative it is. The film reminded me of a lot of movies, not least of which the brilliant John Wick franchise (to which Gunpowder Milkshake could not live up) as well as Sucker Punch, Birds of Prey, Kill Bill, and Watchmen. Stealing quite a few points of plot as well as clear borrowing of aesthetic, Gunpowder leans a bit too heavily on the great’s which come before it, though it does manage to barely retain its own identity.
Is it liberal propaganda?
There are two major liberal plot tropes in the movie. One is that all the “good guys” the viewer is rooting for are female and all of the bad guys are male. The women are dressed well and poised and glossy and all the men are all thuggish and dirty and scary. As a woman, I love a girl power story. But its getting a little old to be so obviously anti-men.
The second major liberal plot point is that corporations are portrayed villainously. “The firm” for which the heroine kills is a menacing room of suited men on a conference call worried about their bottom line.
However, the film does not shy away from the right to bear arms and the need to bear arms considering without them many of the film’s heroes would be very dead. It also clearly indicates that “no gun” policies always end up hurting the good guys not the bad guys.
All together there is enough conservative juju to cancel out the liberal juju to make it sort of a mixed bag political wash.
If you like cartoonish violence and lady-killers you will enjoy Gunpowder Milkshake. It is not brilliant (it is no John Wick) but it gets the job done and is worth a watch for anyone who likes some hard punches and some blood followed by a cool milkshake.