Rated R for being an over-the-top killfest that prides itself on trying to find creative and gross ways to kill people. The movie also makes a point of not swearing in front of the kid. But to pull off this trick, the character tends to swear first and then restates the same phrase using an inoffensive word, so it still gets points for using all kinds of language. I mean, I suppose I should be offended by gore as opposed to sex, but I quickly got over the gore and violence and embraced it. But it doesn't change the fact that it is a hard-R.
DIRECTOR: Navot Papushado
I would like to formally apologize to my wife for asking her to watch this movie. I saw that it had Karen Gillen and a bunch of people we liked and I thought it was going to be a good time. When she decided to roll over and go to bed on the couch, I didn't stop her. She wasn't missing much and I feel like I have to trade whatever credits I had building up for a rom-com with a completely forgettable title after forcing her to watch a movie like this. If there was any doubt, I didn't care for it and my wife cared for this movie even less. It's a shame, because it's not like there isn't a market for this kind of film.
The subgenre of action movie that I would consider the Shoot 'Em Up or ultraviolent film is really a thing (which includes the appropriately named Shoot-'Em-Up). I really blame John Wick. I should blame Quentin Tarantino, but I want to discuss why Tarantino is rich and smart while stuff like Gunpowder Milkshake and John Wick are maybe less-so. Now, I know that there are a ton of John Wick fans out there. If I'm right, there are four John Wick films and a TV show coming, along with a handful of videogames. I clearly am in the minority of people who found the first movie mind-numbing and can't imagine the sequels. (Although a self-flagellating part of me wants to power through these movies just so I can complain with a good deal of authority.) These are movies that thrive on the concept of being cool.
Quentin Tarantino is cool. Let me restate: A lot of Quentin Tarantino's movies are cool. Tarantino himself seems like I would be wildly uncomfortable around him. But again, I don't really know the dude. He's a celebrity and I don't have a personal connection with him. Maybe it would be a bonding experience to get to know the guy over our mutual love of obscure movies, but I digress. But Tarantino's cool is well-earned. Tarantino is a director who was a film fan first. He has this depth of knowledge regarding movies that is scary. He's seen everything. He prides himself on this. When he is making a movie, he tends to focus on cool. But he's pulling from this wealth of cinema history and homaging all of it.
When you watch a Tarantino movie, it's watching a fanboy go to town on his favorite stuff. He pulls from all of these moments in history and openly does so. Yes, Tarantino has talent and knows what to save and what to throw away. But at the end of the day, he's just paying tribute to the people who brought him joy. Movies like Gunpowder Milkshake are kind of doing the same thing, but instead are copying a very limited amount of people, one of whom is Quentin Tarantino. Steven Moffat once commented about seeing cosplay of Osgood stating that "She's a cosplayer. When you cosplay as her, you are cosplaying as a cosplayer." It's the second level of copying. Tarantino is being methodical in his choices of homage. But when you are paying tribute to Tarantino, something is lost because these references don't understand the point of origin.
I'm building up to the idea that Gunpowder Milkshake, like many movies in the ultraviolence subcategory, feels kind of vapid. There's something there that is under proven and under ripe. It should be a story about mothers and daughters. Sam, for all of her anger towards her mother, ultimately becomes her through her adoption of Scarlet's profession coupled with the fact that she is acting as a mentor to Emily. There's fodder there. But the movie is so focused on being cool that it gets in the way of being vulnerable. Considering that this is a movie about betrayal and disappointment in family, there really isn't any emotion being displayed. I know the actresses really can emote and deliver a performance that would move. But I place the onus on the director for being so obsessed with tone that he forgot the center of his story.
Because there are definitely fun parts in this. I love the relationships between all of the women. But this relationship really takes a backseat to the tone. These things should work in tandem, but it almost feels like a conflict instead. I mean, I chose this great photo above (because I'm great, aren't I?). But that image isn't earned. We don't have these baby steps. Instead, every moment of characterization is brought through blunt exposition, not feeling it. It's kind of lame.
So what we're left with is a narrative that is told to us and spectacle that is overwhelming. So the movie becomes wildly forgettable. I mean, I might be in the minority, just like John Wick, because there's a sequel already in development. But this just isn't my kind of movie.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.