Offering a weird mix of over-the-top violence and dark humor, “Gunpowder Milkshake” weds the spaghetti western with the colorful visuals of anime, enhancing that with an inordinately good cast for such a silly movie. The net result provides considerable fun, which might explain reports that its French distributor is already developing a sequel.
Gals with guns is a familiar exploitation combination, but it’s all in how they use them. In this case, the main assassin, Sam, is portrayed by Karen Gillan (of the “Jumanji” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchises), a very dangerous person who inadvertently kills the wrong guy.
Those events complicate Sam’s relationship with a shadowy outfit known as The Firm, headed by a character played by Paul Giamatti. “When they need someone to clean up their mess, they send me,” Sam explains in voiceover.
Unfortunately, Sam makes a mess of her own by killing the son of a rival cabal, leaving its leader hellbent on revenge. At the same time one of her missions goes awry, leaving Sam as the reluctant protector of an eight-year-old girl (Chloe Coleman), adding an extra degree of difficulty to staying alive when the bad guys decide to “send everybody” after her.
What to do? Well, there’s an unexpected visit from Sam’s long-lost mom, herself a master assassin named Scarlet (“Game of Thrones'” Lena Headey), and the equally deadly aunties who raised her, played by Angela Bassett, Carla Gugino and Michelle Yeoh.
Israeli director/co-writer Navot Papushado has seemingly watched more than a few Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie movies, bringing a similar dynamic to the proceedings in terms of kinetic violence peppered with absurdist comedy. A perfect example involves Sam’s battle with a trio of assailants at a bowling alley, which wracks up the score as well as the gore.
Admittedly, a few of those fight sequences go on — and on and on — reflecting the increasingly common attitude in such fare that anything worth doing is worth overdoing. The compensating factors include letting the actors sink their teeth and then some into these murderous roles, with particularly good banter/chemistry between Gillan and Headey, even if the latter’s technically a bit young to be her mom; and nice touches like playing Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” as accompaniment to one action scene.
Netflix scooped up the US rights to the movie, and its commitment to churn out titles has yielded a mixed track record creatively speaking, spread across a broad variety of genres. While this sort of no-frills action vehicle has its limits, “Gunpowder Milkshake” stands out by accomplishing precisely what it sets out to do — the kind of mindless treat, at least for those unfazed by the ridiculous body count, packed with a whole lot of bangs for the buck.
“Gunpowder Milkshake” premieres July 14 on Netflix in the US. It’s rated R.
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