We are very much living in a post-Wick world. Gunpowder Milkshake is not the first film to try and borrow some of the cultural and aesthetic energy from the 2014 action gamechanger from Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, and it won’t be the last. Is it as good? As any of the Wick flicks? No, but it’s fun in its own right.
Our hitwoman heroine is Sam (Karen Gillan), who — as almost always happens in this sort of thing — finds herself hunted by enemies and her former employers when a hit goes wrong, and she’s left trying to protect an eight-year-old girl, Emily (Chloe Coleman), after she inadvertently guns down the tyke’s father. Quickly realizing she’s up against it and even her prodigious powers of pew pew may not see her through the night, Sam finds herself calling on her estranged mother, Scarlet (Lena Headey), and her girl gang of recognizable badasses: Anna May (Angela Bassett), Florence (Michelle Yeoh), and Madeleine (Carla Gugino). These lethal ladies provide support of both the “emotional” and “fire” varieties as gang bosses Nathan (Paul Giamatti) and Jim McAlester (Ralph Ineson) unleash the hounds.
The whole thing takes place in a deliberately retro, highly stylized urban milieu that is redolent of that “some time in the 20th century” vibe that you can find everywhere from Brazil (1985) to Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City (2005) to Streets of Fire (1984) to, well, John Wick (2014). I personally am charmed that so many action movies are embracing the fact that action movies are, with a few noteworthy exceptions, fantasies that have more in common with Harry Potter than actual combat; if your physics and tactics aren’t limited by the real world, why should your production design be?