Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.

Lena Headey, left, as Scarlet and Karen Gillan as Sam in Gunpowder Milkshake.

REINER BAJO/STUDIOCANAL SAS / Netflix

  • Gunpowder Milkshake
  • Directed by Navot Papushado
  • Written by Navot Papushado and Ehud Lavski
  • Starring Karen Gillan, Lena Headey and Carla Gugino
  • Classification R; 114 minutes
  • Streaming on Netflix starting July 14

In the future, every action movie will be a John Wick movie.

Already, 2021 has offered big bloody hints as to the genre’s bullet-riddled fate. In March, Bob Odenkirk went all Wick in Nobody, in which the Better Call Saul star played a retired assassin pulled back into an underground populated by quirky psychos, arcane codes of conduct, and secret organizations. And this week, it is Karen Gillan’s turn to murder dozens and trade quips with eccentric contract killers in Gunpowder Milkshake. The only difference is that one of these would-be Wicks is a fun exercise in the power of inspired casting – and the other is absolutely insufferable.

Story continues below advertisement

Gunpowder Milkshake’s story is a familiar one, focusing on an ultra-skilled hit-woman named Sam (Gillan) who rubs a mob boss the wrong way, leading to a body count higher than the number of Netflix subscribers who will watch this without reaching for their phones. There is a clandestine firm of fixers to which Sam belongs, an underworld hospital operated exclusively for criminals, and a not-so-secret assassins-only library whose stacks conceal high-powered weaponry.

Gunpowder Milkshake’s story is a familiar one, focusing on an ultra-skilled hit-woman named Sam who rubs a mob boss the wrong way, leading to a body count higher than the number of Netflix subscribers who will watch this without reaching for their phones.

REINER BAJO/STUDIOCANAL SAS / Netflix

The central problem with Gunpowder Milkshake is that director Navot Papushado (the Israeli cult hit Big Bad Wolves) fundamentally misunderstand the appeal of the Wick films. Sure, the Keanu Reeves franchise fills its margins with gobbledygook about underworld economies and hitman-only restaurants. But all the eccentric worldbuilding is there to prop up intensely choreographed, fiendishly executed fight scenes between characters we care about (or, at least one stylishly attired dude who just wanted to raise a puppy in peace).

In the Wick series – and Nobody, for that matter – the substance gets stylized. In Gunpowder Milkshake, it is all style – shameless, uninspired, endless.

You’ll get sick of Gunpowder Milkshake’s faux-fun aesthetic from its opening moments, in which retro-diners, oily Russian gangsters, cute-but-deadly teen girls, and whip-cream-topped ice-cream treats act as springboards for violent but confusingly captured mayhem. The whole endeavour smacks of such disingenuous kitsch that, by the moment Sam kills a handful of thugs in a neon-lit bowling alley, you’ll think you, too, lived in the gutter.

You’ll get sick of Gunpowder Milkshake’s faux-fun aesthetic from its opening moments, in which retro-diners, oily Russian gangsters, cute-but-deadly teen girls, and whip-cream-topped ice-cream treats act as springboards for violent but confusingly captured mayhem.

REINER BAJO/STUDIOCANAL SAS / Netflix

I can see the defences of Gunpowder Milkshake forming in the distance, though. That, in its casting of four female super-killers to aid Sam’s quest – played by genre vets Lena Headey, Michelle Yeoh, Carla Gugino and Angela Bassett – the film is in fact a feminist-forward corrective to the dude-heavy Wicks of the world. But I feel that Papushado and co-writer Ehud Lavski are not the least bit interested in action-cinema gender parity – this is regurgitated shoot-’em-up nothingness fetishistically dressed in the cosplay of equality. The women are not characters to care about, but props to kill and be killed.

Perhaps it’s futile to warn of this sub-Wickian world. Netflix is already exploring a Gunpowder Milkshake sequel, and it surely hits all the expected algorithmic buttons. Drink it up, whether you like it or not.

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies