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'Gunpowder Milkshake' review: Flawed, but fun action movie

. Pictured: Lena Headey as Scarlet, Chloe Coleman

. Pictured: Lena Headey as Scarlet, Chloe Coleman as Emily, Karen Gillan as Sam in the Netflix movie "Gunpowder Milkshake." Credit: STUDIOCANAL/Reiner Bajo

MOVIE "Gunpowder Milkshake"

WHERE Streaming on Netflix

WHAT IT'S ABOUT In "Gunpowder Milkshake," Karen Gillan plays an assassin named Sam who works for a generic movie criminal outfit called The Firm, represented by Paul Giamatti as its HR director and her protector.

An assignment to recover some money from an accountant takes a turn when Sam learns that her target is using the cash to rescue his kidnapped daughter Emily (Chloe Coleman).

As is always the case in movies like this, the besuited baddies do not like deviations from protocol, so when Sam disobeys direct orders in a push to bring Emily home, she loses the protection of The Firm.

Combine that with the fact that she killed the son of another generic villain on her previous assignment and, well, a whole bunch of people want her dead.

Hopefully you've gotten all that, but if you haven't, it doesn't really matter: This movie, now streaming on Netflix, is a style exercise from the Israeli director Navot Papushado. It exists entirely to justify flashy action scenes featuring Gillan and her outstanding co-stars — Angela Bassett, Lena Headey, Carla Gugino and Michelle Yeoh.

MY SAY Let's dispense with the most obvious point here: "Gunpowder Milkshake" doesn't just live somewhere within the "John Wick" universe, it's practically a next door neighbor.

It unfolds against an urban backdrop that consists of locations familiar to anyone who has seen the Keanu Reeves revenge trilogy or, for that matter, read a graphic novel: there's a neon diner where the waitress confiscates guns upon entry; a palatial library that's really an armory, with classic artwork adorning the walls.

Action scenes play out in a bowling alley that seems to have been decked out for a disco party and a doctor's office that seems to have been lifted straight off a sci-fi set. The faceless bad guys gather on leather couches to ruminate while Giamatti dispenses orders over the phone.

"Gunpowder Milkshake" is filled with quips and winking; it offers wall-to-wall comic violence and dialogue like "I need weapons. Try the self-help section." The characters all wield flip phones, but this gambit never registers as cleverly as the filmmaker appears to believe it should.

In other words, there's nothing much to differentiate the movie from countless predecessors, with one obvious exception.

There's a great amount of significance in the fact that the heroes are all women, but the movie makes the considerable mistake of underutilizing Bassett, Headey, Gugino and Yeoh.

If you're going to assemble such a powerhouse collection of stars and give them the opportunity to steamroll their way through action scenes, the audience deserves to see a lot more of them than they do here.

All that being said, the picture offers its fair share of quality escapism. Any action movie that sets an entire slow-motion sequence to The Animals' cover of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" automatically offers plenty worth recommending.

BOTTOM LINE This is a flawed movie for a lot of reasons, but it's also a pretty fun time.

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