(director/writer:Navot Papushado; screenwriter: Ehud Lavskie; cinematographer: Michael Seresin; editor: Nicolas De Toth; music: Frank Ilfman; cast: Karen Gillan (Sam), Lena Headey (Scarlet), Carla Gugino (Madeleine), Chloe Colemaan (Emily), Angela Bassett (Anna May), Michelle Yeoh (Florence), Michael Smiley (Dr. Ricky), Ralph Ineson (Jim McAleister), Adam Nagaitis (Virgil), Ed Birch (Lead Russian thug),Joanna Bobin (Rose), Paul Giamatti (Paul); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: R; producers; Andrew Rona, Alex Heineman: Netflix/Studio Canal; 2021-France/Germany/USA-in English)

“You can gulp it down as you would a milkshake and not give it another thought.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The English language debut film for Israeli born filmmaker Navot Papushado(co-director of “Big Bad Wolves”/”Rabies”) has the look of a franchise starter with its open-ended conclusion. Its  efficiently made but is a forgettable action pic that’s cartoonishly co-scripted by the director and Ehud Lavskiey. It delivers in a slick fashion the fantasy elements required for this familiar sort of action pic, one that features a sisterhood of assassins (with the five main killers being female). It was shot in Berlin, where the action takes place in an unnamed fictionalized city.

Its visuals are neon-hued, as it rips off in a film buff friendly way from such neo-noir action pics as Michael Mann’s “Thief” and Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive, ” while it steals the choreographed action sequences from the Hong Kong films of the 1980s and ’90s, like from John Woo’s “The Killer,” and rips off its underworld mythology from “John Wick” (ironically known for ripping off other films).

Sam (Karen Gillan) is a loner who spends her days fulfilling murder contracts from the same shadowy male dominated underworld organization, The Firm,  her estranged mother Scarlett (Lena Headey) used to work for (in real-life mom and daughter are only 14 years apart).

Sam was abandoned 15 years ago at age 12, when mom was forced to by the organization but was raised by them to be a contract killer. Sam finds herself in trouble with The Firm, as she chooses saving the life of an innocent 8-year-old (Chloe Colemaan) whose father was rubbed out by Sam’s bosses. Rather than being loyal to the organization and cleaning up their mess, Sam cares for the kid. The Firm’s rep (Paul Giamatti) tells Sam she’s through with them, and this leads her to go rogue and team up with mom who suddenly reappears. The pair work together for female empowerment, and are joined by female assassins called the Librarians (Angela Bassett, Carla Gugino and Michelle Yeoh) to fend off The Firm. Incidentally, the Librarians meet in a library where weapons are carved into the pages of classic books.

The low-concept film is filled with double-crossing underworld bosses and killers having sicko gun fetish obsessions. In its thin story, Navot Papushado passes the overlong time-frame quickly with a fast-paced execution that’s mindless but energetic. The highlight scene is the action set piece of the diner shootout in the final act. The second best scene being the killing by strangulation with a string by Michelle Yeoh (the former Hong Kong martial arts fighter, now 58), who during a fistfight with a Russian mobster (Ed Birch), gets the upper-hand and strangles him. 

If you expect it to be another familiar mainstream ‘big explosion’ thriller and don’t care if the story has an emotional impact on you or not, you can gulp it down as you would a milkshake and not give it another thought–you’ve got your film.

Gunpowder Milkshake

REVIEWED ON 7/20/2021  GRADE: C+