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.

“We can’t call for help. We can’t call Michael.”

std3Well, maybe this wasn’t ALL bad. It was unrelentingly stupid though. This is a catch-up episode for all those wondering what happened to the Discovery and her crew while we watched The Chosen One’s adventure last week, so if nothing else, it strangely benefited from not featuring The Chosen One at all, except at the end when she typically turned up in order to save everybody again, because, you know, she’s The Chosen One and everyone is useless without her. No lie, the title of this post is a direct quote from the show when the Discovery has crash-landed on the alien planet and the crew realise they are on their own.  

As for that, the show immediately had me ready to throw my remote at my telly (my tv is looking worried every time I watch this show). Last week The Chosen One in her Iron Man -sorry, Time Travel- suit, fell out of a wormhole, crashed into a spaceship during a space battle and fell from space and smashed down onto the surface with nary a scratch, but the Discovery, a giant spaceship, loses its shit as it falls down to the planet for a crash landing, suggesting that The Chosen One is more powerful and durable than a starship.  The entire plot of this episode involves the crew desperately trying to repair the totally fracked-up starship lying dead on the surface, no communications, no sensors, no engines- but fortunately this is a crew of A-listers so no Dry Dock required, this thing can be repaired in about six hours (totally fracked up but repaired in six hours) as long as they can get the locals of the planet to replace one broken gadget that looks like a Space Vase. 

Ironically, as this episode is one of the better Discovery episodes if only because it focuses on the Discovery crew/supporting cast instead of the insufferable Burnham, I struggle to really elucidate upon it because for the life of me I don’t even know their names. After two whole seasons, I don’t really know any of their names or characters, an indication of just how poor the writing of the show has always been, and indeed how much it has steadfastly focused upon The Chosen One to the detriment of others.

As usual, the show looks pretty, something helped no end by further location shooting in what I assume is Iceland, augmented by really nice visual effects adding virtual alien skylines and alien structures. This is one of my major frustrations of this show- it is obviously expensive and looks gorgeously impressive at times, but its so undermined by bad writing and execution. It reminds me rather of Prometheus, a similarly gorgeous film that blunders abysmally whenever anyone opens their mouth to speak. Its just the same here- banal dialogue, woefully silly sentiments. Two of the crew go off the ship to recruit some locals to fix the broken Space Vase and they soon see a native in the distance- instead of calling out for help, they choose to simply follow the mysterious cloaked figure who could be a ruffian for all they know, across the wintery tundra to an alien outpost that might be a trap…  It all looks perhaps a little bit too video-gamey but it is awfully pretty-looking but my goodness its so stupid, with Ensign Tully (the podgy ginger one) wracked with self-doubt repeatedly babbling nonsense to quell her nerves while her commander (whatever his name is) calmly reassures her endlessly.

Anyway they make freinds with the locals – one of whom, like the sad git last week spending 40 years in his literal waiting room, has been waiting faithfully for the noble Federation to save their asses from criminal thugs who inevitably threaten our Discovery bunch. Fortunately Michelle Yeoh, Discovery’s resident bad-ass, turns up at literally the right moment to save the day (such lazy writing) and they are given a personal transporter gadget to return straight to the ship (yeah more lazy writing) and the repaired Discovery attempts to leave before being consumed by an alien ice creature (no lie) but they are struggling until another spaceship fortuitously arrives just in time (again, yet more lazy writing) and what do you know, the mysterious spaceship is commanded by their lost friend Michael Burnham, yep The Chosen One has saved the day again. The writing here is typically abysmal in its attempt to raise tension, I mean, literally a tractor beam suddenly picks up the Discovery and “Coms are back online!” and “Shields are back online!” followed by “Weapons armed and ready!” and the commander, Saru has to decide to fight or chat and his decision to chat is immediately vindicated when The Chosen One appears on the other end of the line. 

std4So I suppose everything is reset now and next weeks episode will resume the Chosen One Saga, and the episode really sank when Burnham’s face appeared on the communication screen to announce she was saving everyone, but at least this had its moments while it lasted. The lead criminal  Zareh (Jake Weber) is a definite highlight, a character that is interesting and hopefully will be a returning bad-guy. Star Trek: Discovery is one of those shows that, bereft of interesting leads/characters (other than perhaps Michelle Yeoh, who is unfortunately always curtailed by the lousy writing  (“What you call pain, I call foreplay!”)), is only enlivened by interesting guest actors who tend to steal the show.