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Parents' Guide to

Gunpowder Milkshake

By Monique Jones, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Violent woman-led action film chooses style over substance.

Movie R 2021 114 minutes
Gunpowder Milkshake Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 16+

John Wick and Riverdale Horrifying Franken-Baby

This movie is everything that is wrong with Hollywood right now. It has all of my pet peeves about movies. It is style over substance and performative activism at its finest. It feels like the Franken-baby of John Wick and Riverdale. Let me break down my biggest issues with this film. Spoilers below 1. The feminism- My problem here isn't that the film is feminist, it is that it thinks its audience is so stupid that it needs to club us over the head with it. All of the good guys are girls and all of the bad guys are men. I think the best example of the heavy-handedness of this is the villains motive. Throughout the movie we know he's mad because the main character, Sam, killed his son. This is already an understandable villain motive. It doesn't need any more context really. But the movie adds the context that the villain feels like an alien among his wife and daughters and his son was the only one he could relate to because of their shared manliness. So now the villain is sexist, but it's just shoe-horned in. It's not built up at all, he just goes on a sexist rant about his annoying wife and daughters randomly. 2. Hide your gays trope- Now I could be off-base on this one, but I think they were hinting at a romance between two of the library women. However, we don't see it in screen. If this was an implied romance it definitely falls under the same criticism that J.K Rowling and other writers have received for having gay characters but being too afraid to actually show their love. If you want to have gay characters don't cloak it in this mystery like it's a dirty little secret. 3. The costuming- Ok, I'm being a bit petty with this one, but there is a large amount of screen time where Sam wheres this huge hat and a trench coat with a popped collar. It's so cartoonish. It looks like something Mary Kate and Ashley would've worn on their mystery series. On this vein is also the fact that she never puts her wisps into her ponytail and the bowling jacket. Of course female action hero has to make impractical decisions just to look cute. 4. Acting- I hate to say this. It genuinely hurts me. I'm a huge Dr. Who fan. But Karen Gillan just isn't pulling it off for me. She comes across kind of flat. She's trying to go for the quiet intensity of John Wick (I can't stress enough how much this movie "borrows" from him), but it just doesn't work for me. 5. The writing- So my main issue is the writing. This movie is so badly written. It makes no sense. So much conflict takes place off screen and then is just explained (Sam's father dying, Sam's mom getting revenge on her father's killer). I could go through this movie beat by beat and explain why every single plot point does not make sense. The very first scenes of the film set up that the mom has to go on the run because she has killed the man who killed Sam's father and now there are people coming after her. But, she kills the man's son and all his henchmen in the diner at the start. So whose coming after her now? They also set up that you can't have weapons in the diner, similar to the continental in John Wick. In this movie though it is just so clear that this isn't enforced at all. Right at the start the diner girl asks a guy to surrender his weapons and he just pushes her aside and goes in anyway. So why does anyone hand their guns over? Conflicts also just resolve themselves. Like, the robbers all just kill each other conveniently. When she kills the little girl's dad she shoots him for reaching for his phone but then just lets him answer it? Everyone just forgives each other for conflicts in seconds. She forgives her mom, the library women forgive her mom, the little girl forgives her, and there's barely any struggle to get there. The assassin league that's set up to be so dangerous and powerful is taken down by Sam simply threatening Victor who has many times made it clear he has no power in the organization. It just... it makes no sense. 6. Action- I'll end here. I have more points but this is already too long. The action sucks. Bad guys attack one at a time or stupidly split up. People shoot point blank and miss the protagonists constantly. Things like metal trays block bullets. The hospital fight scene require such a suspension of disbelief you have to believe the movie is taking place in a parallel dimension where magic exists. In lots of the fight scenes you can count the beats. It's a mess. To conclude, this movie is terrible. Please Netflix, I'm begging you, there are so many talented writers and directors out there clamoring for a shot. You have the power to make GOOD movies, so use it.
2 people found this helpful.
age 7+

Must watch!

Very good! Some swearing and violence.

This title has:

Too much violence

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2 ):
Kids say (8 ):

This is a stylish but staid addition to the growing subgenre of action films featuring elaborate, cartoonish criminal underworlds. A crude assumption about Gunpowder Milkshake might be that it simply wants to be the "girl" version of John Wick. And the film does seem to base a lot of its comic book-style world-building on the rules established in the Wick films, such as creating a crime community with tons of eye candy, like a 1950s-style diner; a retro, slick hospital that exists outside the bounds of mainstream healthcare; and a library where guns are available for checkout. How do these structures exist without being raided by the police? Gunpowder Milkshake doesn't answer that question. (Neither does John Wick, for that matter.) But while the John Wick franchise does try to explain some of how its world works, Gunpowder Milkshake isn't interested in having those conversations. Instead, it relies on viewers' prior familiarity with John Wick to fill in the gaps of how an implausible world of assassins can exist. That works against the film, since it prevents it from becoming its own entity.

Despite its star-studded cast -- including heavyweights like Bassett, Yeoh, Gugino, Headey, and Giamatti -- the film's focus is more on style than substance. Circling back to the John Wick comparison, that franchise is also full of glitz and glamour amid the killing sprees, but the films boast more threads of pathos than Gunpowder Milkshake. Case in point: Emily, the girl that Sam is protecting, doesn't mourn her father's death long enough for the audience to internalize her pain and loss. Instead, she either doesn't have enough time to mourn due to the action, or her emotional state wasn't deemed important enough in the script. And her later rationalization about the circumstances leading to her father's death also feels too convenient for the plot. That said, Coleman does a good job at making such lines sound convincing. Meanwhile, Yeoh, Gugino, and Bassett turn in performances that range from passable (Yeoh, Gugino) to clunky (Bassett, alas). Perhaps it's a case of the actors not having enough characterization to latch onto, because we know they can act. As Sam, Gillan isn't charismatic enough to find the fun in her character. Her wooden performance makes it hard to stay interested in Sam's journey from villain to anti-hero. Ultimately, the most convincing actor is Giamatti, who always seems able to turn in compelling performances even in the wackiest of films. With fewer scenes than any of the major characters, his character, Nathan, is the only one who truly grounds viewers in this zany world of libraries full of guns, assassin diners, and mysterious criminal firms. Overall, Gunpowder Milkshake seems more interested in being flashy than in entertaining its audience.

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