We've been fans of Karen Gillan since she first appeared on Doctor Who as the 11th Doctor's companion, Amy Pond. Amy was a strong woman who could handle herself in any adventure. Her time with the Doctor led to moments of both humor and heartache, all of which Gillan pulled off beautifully. Of course, the actress went on to global fame as Nebula in the MCU movies, and her star continues to rise. Gillan currently stars in the new Netflix movie, Gunpowder Milkshake (out now), where she plays a hitwoman named Sam. How one feels about this movie will likely be largely determined by whether or not you've seen John Wick.
Sam is employed by a mysterious organization called "The Firm." When the movie begins, it appears she's been "handling problems" for them for years and is well-respected in her line of work. However, when a job goes sideways, Sam is left in charge of a little girl named Emily (played by Chloe Coleman) as she goes on the run from her former employer (represented by the terrific Paul Giamatti), as well as someone else with a grudge. She's assisted by a trio of "librarians" played by Angela Bassett, Carla Gugino, and Michelle Yeoh, as well as her mom, played by Lena Headey. (Yes, killing is the family business.) Make no mistake about it. Every woman in this movie can kick your ass.
The movie has an appealing visual style and engaging soundtrack. There are a lot of gunfights, and a lot of bad guys die explicitly bloody deaths in intricately-choreographed sequences that feel like a mix of John Woo and Quentin Tarantino. In a vacuum, this is an entertaining (albeit gory) movie that you won't mind watching on a rainy afternoon. The problem is that John Wick did almost all of it already, and from this perspective, did it better, which hurts Gunpowder Milkshake.
There are multiple similarities between the two movies. Where Wick had the Hotel, Gunpowder Milkshake has a Library. They both feature shadowy employers. Wick's fight scenes are even more intricate and almost resemble a modern dance performance more than a shoot-out. In addition, Keanu Reeves felt more convincing as a quiet assassin. The actor still has a bizarrely fascinating woodenness to his performances which served him well as a detached killer in that franchise. Gillan clearly has to work harder to try to have that same emotionless expression, but her humanity still breaks through.
Gunpowder Milkshake is an entertaining movie, but it's a knock-off, and the original version tells the story better. We'd give this a rating of a 6.5 for anyone who hasn't seen John Wick, and a 5.5 for those who have seen it. You won't be mad you saw it, but apart from the female slant, it doesn't break any new ground.
A movie with a strong case of déjà vu. (pic via ign.com)
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