A rather empty exercise in style and violence, Gunpowder Milkshake criminally wastes some of its female action heroines and varies widely in tone. Karen Gillan stars as Scarlett – a hitwoman who takes orders from The Firm, embodied by Paul Giamatti, her handler. When a hit goes wrong and she ends up killing the son of a powerful mob boss, she finds herself on the run. Another hit ends up with her injuring an accountant who had been forced to steal from the Firm to save his kidnapped daughter.
A conscience-stricken Gillan, discovering the circumstances and still reeling from being abandoned by her own assassin mother Lena Headey as a teenager, feels she has to save the eight-and-three quarter-year-old girl Emily (Chloe Coleman). Along the way, she teams up with a group of women – Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett and Carla Cugino – who keep weapons in books in a John Wick-esque library full of carnage, and who felt betrayed by Headey leaving their fold.
Gillan gets to reconnect with Mum amidst some relentless action that leans heavily on style, but despite Gillan and Headey’s best efforts the emotion rings hollow. The humour feels leaden, with quips unconvincing despite Gillan’s knack for comedy; a supposedly comedic fight sequence, where Gillan’s arms have been paralysed, is awkwardly violent rather than a Keaton-esque exercise in slapstick. Michael Smiley is out of place as a laughing gas-sniffing doctor for killers, and Yeoh and Bassett have a couple of scraps involving chains and hammers but little else.
CGI claret is sprayed liberally in slo-mo shootouts but it all feels rather familiar, style trumping substance with co-writer/director Papushado and Ehud Lavski’s script wearing its influences (Atomic Blonde, Crank, Everly, Wick) and mythology heavily. A waste of its capable cast, Gunpowder Milkshake is not as rich and tasty as it could have been.
Dir: Navot Papushado (15, 110 mins)
Out now in cinemas and on Sky Cinema
words KEIRON SELF