Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)

gunpowderI sit here wondering what in the world to say about this terrifically underwhelming tosh. It is clearly, absolutely, shamefully indebted to the John Wick films, something so frequently noted by myself of late (the films Kate, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard and Nobody, the latter that I haven’t reviewed yet) that I wonder if it hasn’t suddenly reached some cinematic critical mass. Everybody seems to be referencing John Wick, and in just the same way as in the late seventies/early eighties all those sci-fi efforts ‘inspired by’ Star Wars were all pretty woeful, all these action movies are wholly inferior to John Wick (well, except maybe Nobody, which I really enjoyed, but more on that hopefully later when I get chance to post a review).

Gunpowder Milkshake‘s ingenious (well, maybe not) spin on the John Wick formula brings the novel twist of the protagonists all being women, and all the bad guys/bastards being men. Its about as nuanced and sophisticated as that, and I know of quite a few YouTubers who will get their boxer shorts in a right royal knot at the woke explosion that is this film. It’ll come, I’m sure. I try to stay out of all that gender politics although it winds me up plenty at times, but subtle on such issues this film isn’t (“There’s a group of men called The Firm. They’ve been running things for a long, long time… They think they’re untouchable. They think they can get away with anything”/”But they won’t right?”/”No. They won’t. Not anymore!”). Yeah these sisters are doing it for themselves.

I could, for instance, just reel off all manner of juicy quotes from the films remarkably complex script: “She got us good, Doc. I don’t think I’ll walk again”/”Well, there must be an epidemic, because I’ve got a guy in the next room who’s got similar symptoms”/”What do you mean?”/”I mean, a girl f**ked him up, too.” I’m sure some people lap this stuff up as being absolutely revelatory and hip and intoxicating. The men are all evil or stupid or both, and most are generally incompetent. That’s about the extent of Gunpowder Milkshake‘s philosophy, which would be fine if it was tongue in cheek and maybe self-knowing, but this thing is relentless in its world-building, securing a mythology to mirror the world-building of the John Wick films, only from a wholly feminist bent. Which, as I say, is fine, particularly if it was a bit arch and self-deprecating but seeing slightly-built women kicking four worlds of shit out of armies of man mountain bad-guys twice their size… it was daft in Kate, its quite nauseating in this. There’s nothing particularly feminine about these women- its curious that they are behaving entirely like men themselves, as if there’s an in-joke within these films lost upon the cast and crew, earnest as they are. I mean, this film has a hell of a cast: Lena Headley, Carla Cugino, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, Karen Gillian and Paul Giamatti. All utterly wasted in overly-stylish, pretentious nonsense.

So anyway, before I leave myself open to a torrent of abuse by fervent fans of this odd film (I’m sure there are some out in the wild), I’ll leave it there. Its getting late, I’m tired, and really, I was wasting my time watching this tripe, wasting my time writing about it just makes me twice the fool.

Fighting With My Family

fightin1While it passes the time pleasantly enough, you’re always aware that you’re watching a movie with something like this. There’s something artificial that draws attention to itself, whether it be the casting – Lena Headey, what?!- or the familiarity (bordering on relentless predictability) of the script. The biggest surprise, oddly, is that its all based on a true story. Maybe this is just one of those wild true stories that feels so crazy its something only Hollywood could come up with- the irony that its about something as scripted and false as the sport of wrestling/entertainment is no doubt a big part of it. One of the best parts of the film for me is when one of the characters just openly admits everything is written and set-up, but that the magic is that the fans in the audience are in on it, too, so the trick is in the sincerity.

Sadly though that’s a trick the film, curiously, fails to pull off. It never convinces, always feels insincere, always lacks an edge. I was always aware of the construction going on behind the scenes, the predictability of the character arcs etc – so much so that the film quite quickly became quite boring as a piece of entertainment. You just know whats going to happen so far ahead that by the mid-point you really don’t need to actually see the rest. Characters initially at odds will become freinds, the life-lesson story told by the coach is clearly going to be revealed to be autobiographical, the crisis of a brothers failed dreams will be replaced by reevaluation of his self-worth and new dreams. Our heroine will be victorious and vindicate everyone’s belief in her.

In that sense, there is something  comfortingly reassuring about a film like this- its perfect rainy Sunday-afternoon viewing, I suppose, but that’s quite a damning view in itself, considering the talent involved – alongside Headey, there’s Florence Pugh, Nick Frost, Dwayne Johnson, Vince Vaughn in front of the camera and Stephen Merchant behind it. In that respect this film is a crushing bore and disappointment, tempered by the knowledge that, well, what else could one really expect from something like this?

Fighting With My Family is currently streaming on Netflix in the UK.

300: Rise of an Empire (2014)

 

rise12016.67: 300: Rise of an Empire (Amazon VOD)

There’s no point really going on about the plot, such as it is. Fans of the original 300 will likely lap this up. Its really just 300 all over again, but just more. More gore. More action. And louder. Its everything modern sequels aspire to be. Just a pity it couldn’t have been not just ‘more’ but better (so true of so many sequels).

300 of course was something rather new, a hyper-stylised cinematic version of Frank Miller’s graphic novel. The sequel has lost that edge of originality, the sense of wonder at watching something ‘new’ that elevated the original experience. Like Sin City‘s sequel it rather suffers for it, losing itself in the technology, almost becoming a parody of the original. It doesn’t help that the film lacks the original’s charismatic lead (for obvious reasons) and even casting the great Eva Green doesn’t fill that gap. Green makes a great villain with some real presence onscreen, as one would expect, but she’s sorely wasted here with a vacuous, predictable plot and risible dialogue. Basically it’s all an effects reel, the plot moving viewers from one gory set-piece to the next. There isn’t really any character or drama or tension or any of that other boring stuff that so distracts teenage males from the serious stuff- you know, the shouting and fighting and gore and delirious slowmotion reveling in cartoon violence. I’m sure there are young males out there who think this is simply brilliant.

Which is rather scary, frankly. But maybe they will grow up.

Of course, its pretty, in a perverse sense considering how it glorifies explicit gore and violence. There are times when the visuals are quite arresting, but most of the time it has the look of a videogame and quite artificial and almost boring. Why is it that fifty cgi battleships are not enough, that you need a hundred or more, what makes it any more effective rather than boring overkill? What makes anyone think that seeing a cgi character getting a cgi arm chopped off in slow-motion in great gouts of cgi blood is anything exciting after the sixth or seventh time? Without genuine drama, or involving plot, its just random images, pretty as they might be. It doesn’t really make for a movie, not as I understand it.

Frankly, I felt sorry for the actors. What a soulless experience it must have been in-front of all that green screen voicing that awful dialogue. I can only imagine how horrible it must have seemed, particularly for the likes of Green and Lena Headey, who are frankly above all this. It says everything about where cinema and television are these days when you compare stuff like the 300 films to Game of Thrones.