Gunpowder Milkshake is filled with kickass females who use their opulent weaponry and artistic fighting prowess to lead us through a hyper stylised and retroesque story. This female-led cast shine in this memorable action thriller. With comedic highlights and motifs, this film is a fun and engaging assassin story. Gunpowder Milkshake is Israeli director Navot Papushado’s first English-language film, co-written with Ehud Lavski. With the use of comic-type film cuts and in a film noir style, Papushado successfully tells Samantha’s story, played by Karen Gillan, and her turbulent life as a hit-woman.
Sam was a young girl when her mother Scarlett (Lena Headey) left her alone in a 50’s style diner with a bloodied vanilla milkshake in hand. In an eye-level angle of the two sharing their milkshake and close-up shots of their eyes, they sat silently amongst instrumental retro music. Scarlett gives her daughter a vague explanation of what lies ahead for the traumatised duo before disappearing into a rainy night. She leaves Sam in the arms of The Firm’s hitmen leader, played by the wicked Paul Giamatti.
Cut to 15 years later and Sam has followed in her mother’s footsteps, making a living doing what she knows best – violently and stealthily murdering the oddballs and criminals of society. Sam collects rewards from The Firm, a male-dominated goon squad of assassins. This organisation that raised Sam eventually turns against her once she fails to complete various missions. The last straw is when she turns rogue on The Firm, saving Emily, a spirited and strong “8 and ¾’s” year old girl (Chloe Colemaan).
With her ‘I Love Kittens’ duffel bag of guns and her ‘Tommy tomahawk’ in tow, Sam enlists the help of The Librarians, made up of a trio of prestigious actresses; Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh and Carla Gugino. This all-female party of smooth talking, slick and salty assassins hide their deadly possessions inside an extravagantly gorgeous library, in books like Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Puns are peppered throughout the film, along with endearingly cheesy one-liners to keep an intensely dark thriller, seemingly light-hearted.
Gunpowder Milkshake is a modernist film, melting together hints of German Expressionist cinema and film noir. Highly contrasted red and blue tones, urban landscapes, dystopian set designs, double exposure shots, and multi-dynamic shots and angles are scattered throughout. Multiple wide lenses and low angles of heroes and villains add to this immersive film style. Slow motion and fast-forwarded montages of blood spattered, stylistic scenes create extravagant and fabulous violence, highlighting each actress’s beauty, dominance and talent while they kill multiple henchmen.
Amongst hardcore fighting under ceilings of literal bullet rain, empowering tunes play from Frank Ilfman’s beautifully composed soundtrack, like Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart and Badfinger’s Baby Blue. Ilfman mixes indie-rock, blues, western and orchestral songs all into one eclectic soundtrack for the film.
Cool costumes, chaos and killing continue right until the end, when Sam is reunited with her estranged mother Scarlett (Lena Headey). Scarlett and Sam’s partnership creates a nostalgic and emotional take on an otherwise extremely graphic and dramatically violent film about intergenerational battles between a group of assassins and hitmen. Along with The Librarian league, Scarlett, Sam and Emily must learn to have faith in each other when battling to protect their lives and precious library.
Movie Review By Zara Zampaglione