Gunpowder Milkshake. (15.)
Directed by Navot Papushado
Starring Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Chloe Coleman, Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett and Paul Giamatti. In cinemas. 114 mins.
Gunpowder Milkshake will claim to be original because it is a violent hitman comic action fantasy where the hitmen are women. Actually, it's original because it's a violent comic action fantasy that doesn't rip off Tarantino. Everybody else, but not QT; least not directly. Mixed into this gaudy tale of a female assassin (Gillan) taking on the mob after a hit goes wrong are bits stolen from Matthew Vaughn, John Woo, Sin City, Drive and countless others.
Most of all though, there is John Wick, which appears to have been looted from top to bottom, starting with its USP of being set in a separate villain society adjacent to this one. In Wick there is a hotel where villains must check their weapons at the door; in Gunpowder, there is a diner. In Wick, you visit a tailor's to rearm; in Gunpowder, there is a library and three librarians Gugino, Yeoh and Bassett. There is also a hoods-only private medical facility doctored by Michael Smiley.
Writer/ director Papushado shoots it all in a kind of sugar rush noir, all bright clearly defined colours and set it in a comic book, mid-Atlantic mishmash city. Technically this counts as stylish but very little of it pleases the eyes. It thinks it's Sin City, but it's more Max Payne. It's like it was on the wrong end of a crime drama Changing Room makeover, where Laurence Llewelyn Bowen has simply run amock. The eyes though have it better than the ears, listening to talented performers trying to make the smart dialogue smart. Worse of all, the soundtrack composer Frank Ilfman has felt empowered to try a couple of pastiches of Morricone spaghetti western tracks. These are horrible things, done with love no doubt but worthy of having a contract put on his head.
I definitely got off on the wrong foot with this but after the half-hour, the film exhibits a few moments of originality that spark interest. There are action sequences that play out in novel ways and I was thinking, well maybe this might amount to something after all. But in the final third, it just gets bogged down in protracted over-the-top gunplay. There is a slow-motion one-shot shootout sequence that is a technical marvel – part Colin Firth demented church slaughterhouse in Kingsman, part Oldboy in the corridor - but total uninvolving.
Trying too hard isn't the worst thing to criticise something for but its desperation to impress drags everybody down with it. Crucial he doesn't do right by Amy Pond. Gillan has arguably had the most successful post-Doctor Who career of anybody, but after lots of ensemble parts this is a real bonafide star role and it doesn't quite deliver. She's fine but the action hero case isn't really made.