Imagine a city where there is an underworld of criminals who live by a set of rules. Crime organizations that utilize a secret society of assassins, and a place where those assassins can go and guns are not allowed. Are you imagining John Wick? That would be fair, but instead of picturing Keanu Reeves, picture Karen Gillan as the badass anti-hero of the film. Add a bit of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, take a sample of any John Woo film, some Kingsman, plus a little Kill Bill and you have Gunpowder Milkshake, a stylish action film with girls instead of guys.

Joining Gillan is an impressive cast of supporting actors including Lena Headey as her assassin mother, Carla Gugino, Angela Bassett, and Michelle Yeoh as a group ‘Liberians’ to round out the group of let’s have a little of every character archetype. We have the nurturing one, the cranky one, and Michelle Yeoh the ass-kicking one. The movie has a few easily disposable male characters as well, however it is nice to see Paul Giamatti, who I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing on the big screen in a while.

Karen Gillan plays an assassin who works for an organization called The Firm. The Firm had some money stolen and they hire her to recover it. In the process of recovering the money, she finds out that he stole it to pay the ransom for his daughter who has been kidnapped. Because of her relationship with her own mother (Carla Gugino) Gillan takes the money and goes against the firm to recover the child played by Chloe Coleman. As we all know from criminal underworld stories, if you go against the syndicate, the organization, or the firm, you are excommunicated, and other assassins are sent after you.

Writer and Director Navot Papushado takes the action flick, gives it a feminist kick with a message about the relationship between mothers and daughters, caretakers and those in need of care, and interlaces that with a stylized action film. Cinematographer Michael Seresin gives us a 1950s neon film noir diner look throughout the film, that works well for the diner that many of the scenes take place in. The slow-motion shots of Gillan walking into a room are a bit overdone, but when you don’t have a lot of substance to a film, slow motion helps pad the nearly two-hour run time to what could easily be a 90-minute film and just as good.

People, of course, are going to argue that this film is a rip-off of a dozen other films. In the same way, they do that with Quentin Tarantino’s movies. I, however, would like to think of this movie as more of an homage to the movies that inspired Papushado.

The fight sequences are not as stylish as those of John Wick. The first one that plays out in a bowling alley is slow and choppily edited, going for humor over style. However, the second fight sequence between Gillan and the three bumbling assassins sent to get her has a nice balance of violence and humor. Most importantly, Papushado does not use the nauseating shaky-cam quick-cut fight sequences that Hollywood filmmakers use to ad nauseam action films these days.

Is this a brilliant film? No, not really. It is too much like too many other films that have come before it to be great, but then again any film that comes out nowadays can be compared to a film that came out before it, so that is an unreasonable standard to hold it to. Is this a good fun film to watch? Yes, it is. It is not going to win any awards, but it is not trying to. Gunpowder Milkshake takes John Wick with chicks, adds a bit of color, humor, and gives us a fun film to enjoy at the recently re-opened cinemas or sitting on the sofa with some popcorn.

  • Directed by: Navot Papushado/li>
  • Written by: Navot Papushado
  • Starring: Karen Gillan
  • Rated: R
  • Budget:$ est.
  • Running Time: 1 hour and 54 minutes

Review by Milo Denison, the author of How to Manage Your Manager and host of podcast The 80s and 90s Uncensored.