2 out of 5
Directed by: Navot Papushado
Tarantino and Rodriguez visuals. Some Jon Woo, slo-mo flair. That Old Boy oner. Some Luc Besson extremism. …And then we have a movie, right? Director / co-writer Navot Papushado would sure like for us to think so with Gunpowder Milkshake, and in case we’re wavering on that, take a look at some of the cast inclusions: Michelle Yeoh; Lena Headey; Carla Gugino; Angela Bassett. I mean, now we have to have a movie. …Er, right?
That Gunpowder Milkshake trawls in these visual familiars isn’t inherently a bad thing; even if they’re emptily applied – which they are – as long as they’re skillfully done, some distraction can be achieved, and I’ll credit the film with that for most of its runtime. There are even some more unique sequences that excite, temporarily elevating the movie to the kind of free-running shindig for which it’s tonally aiming; it’s clear that Papushado has the ability to construct and pace some solid actionry, but stringing it into a two-hour film eludes: the movie starts out has harmless if bland, but starts to descend into more boring tedium as it gets to its intended climax(es). The plot’s roteness also would be fine if it was supported by better characters or application of all those big names, but the script – co-written by Ehud Lavski – forces everyone into a mostly similar badass one-liner type, and unfortunately, not all of our actors can imbue that with the humanity to get us to invest a little bit; that is, since the story – assassin goes rogue; cares for a little girl orphaned by her actions – is paint-by-numbers and the spectacle is flashy but often weightless, a little more care for 3D-ing our lead, played by Karen Gillan, would’ve helped.
The fight choreography, though appreciably requiring lots of work and coordination, suffers a bit from the usual “actors who maybe aren’t accustomed to this” punch-pulling – scenes often lack oomph – and Papushado and editor Nicolas De Toth don’t shoot and cut to the impacts / effects enough to help out. Much better, then, are the scenes which are not fist fights or have a quirk: a car chase sequence is quite excellent, and a bit where Gillan’s arms are essentially restrained is pretty fun. But elsewhere it’s a lot of glitter and color highlights and rather unmotivated angles and shots that don’t help to hide the relative pointlessness of how things play out, and the lack of stakes.
Gunpowder Milkshake is a movie of Too Muches and Not Enoughs. I dug the way the film’s world is elevated such that this cult of killers (hired by “The Firm”) is kinda all that exists – we’re not subject to pedestrians getting in the way, or any police presence – but it also feels oddly small, like all taking place on a single backlot with a couple of neon-lit sets. The continual nods to action film heroes show appreciation for the generic space in which the film is intended to work, but it offers very little beyond those nods to stand out on its own. And while having all these cool actors in one place, all acting like badasses, makes for a neat poster, it seemingly left little time to coach any proper character development or to actually set up a villain (several dudes are trotted out like they’re important, but good like considering them as more than fodder), relying on actors more seasoned in this game – Headey, Paul Giamatti – to fill up space when they can.