The two tubs of vanilla-flavoured ice-cream on a fridge rack, seen in one of the scenes of the film, scream to be recognised. Ah, yes, vanilla is the essence of this crime thriller. Set in the underbelly of the city, ‘Gunpowder Milkshake’ is the tale of Samantha a.k.a. Sam (Karen Gillan), an assassin who follows in her mother’s footsteps by working for a notorious crime agency called ‘The Firm’.
Like her mother Scarlet (Lena Headey), who vanished 15 years ago, Sam is an ace assassin “with quite a reputation”. At the agency, she reports to, and is protected by, her mother’s friend Nathan (Paul Giamatti).
While executing an assignment, Sam erroneously kills the son of Jim McAlester (Ralph Ineson), a rival kingpin. This puts The Firm in a tight spot and the “Bosses” want to get rid of her. But, in order to save Sam and pacify his bosses, Nathan sends Sam on another assignment – to recover The Firm’s stolen money.
When Sam reaches the venue and gets into a scuffle, she accidently shoots the thief, who reveals to her that he stole the money because his daughter Emily (Chloe Coleman) had been kidnapped. This revelation causes a change of heart in Sam, who goes all out to rescue the kid. Vowing to keep Emily alive, Sam goes rogue.
Meanwhile, McAlester and his boys are closing in on Sam and Emily when Scarlet resurfaces in Sam’s life. Along with her three friends – Anna May (Angela Bassett), Florence (Michelle Yeoh) and Madeline (Carla Gugino), who run “The Library”, a front for an armoury – Scarlet comes to Sam’s rescue.
Despite a cold-blooded killer trope that hangs over the narrative, the film focuses on the emotional mother-daughter bond between Sam and Scarlet, and the sisterhood between Scarlet and her friends. There is also Sam’s redemptive arc – from being a ‘cold-blooded killer’ to a ‘cold-blooded killer with a conscience’ – that takes centrestage once Emily comes into Sam’s life.
Layered with heavy metallic music, the film is stylishly mounted with seamlessly choreographed blood-spattering action sequences set in a variety of backdrops, from a neon-lit bowling alley to a mall parking lot, to a dental clinic. It’s fun to watch women combat men and some of the brutal fighting shots are cleverly captured. While these occasional bursts of violence appear exciting, the end result is predictable with the enemies dropping down dead.
On the performance front, each of the actors is engaging and has her or his moments of dynamic, on-screen glory. They all appear to be shallow, tough, impatient, smug and fairly one-dimensional.
Overall, although the film is technically smart, the execution of most of the scenes appear to be overdone and previously seen, so much so, that you’ll try recalling them while watching the film. Few similar films that come to mind at once are the ‘John Wick’ series, ‘Kill Bill’ and Luc Besson’s ‘Leon: The Professional’.
–BY Troy Ribeiro