AUGUST 7 ― Movie watching (and therefore its appreciation), like everything else in life, is also subject to context.
Some movies that seemed great when we were kids can very easily become unwatchable when we watch them again when we’re older, that’s one context to consider.
Another possible context is our very own emotional state and circumstances when we watch them. These are obviously personal contexts that one will usually have to consider when evaluating movies.
Another even more important (and non-personal) context is what the films are intended to be, which doesn’t mean that you need to know the filmmakers personally in order to figure out.
Most filmmakers’ intentions are pretty much transparent from the way the films are presented, the genres they’re in, the formula being used to tell the story and the stylistic choices made in the films.
For example, we know that we’re watching a slapstick comedy simply from the fact that the film relies on physical comedy and pratfalls to gain its laughs, and so on and so forth.
Hoping to get something else from a genre that we know doesn’t offer certain things is a bit like eating a nasi lemak and complaining that there’s no bolognese sauce included in it, or eating ice cream and complaining that it’s not spicy.
However, this is precisely the kind of responses I’ve seen so far (from both critics and audiences) to two new films (one on Netflix and the other on Amazon Prime) belonging to a genre that’s often misunderstood ― the shoot-‘em-up movie.
It's a genre that more or less came into being after the cult success of those heroic bloodshed movies from Hong Kong by the likes of John Woo and Ringo Lam during the late 80s and the 90s, first rearing its head in the 90s during the post-Tarantino indie film boom and slowly evolving until it reached its first US peak with Shoot ‘Em Up in 2007 and then of course the current John Wick and its plenty of Wick-alike copycats (which includes the likes of Atomic Blonde, Anna, this year’s awesome Nobody, and plenty more) and the little-seen but totally worthy Free Fire.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s dive into the merits of the two films themselves, shall we?
I’ve been waiting a long time for a new film from Israeli genre prodigy Navot Papushado, who first caught the attention of genre film fans with Rabies and then totally made us sit up and take notice with the excellent Big Bad Wolves, both of which were co-directed with Aharon Keshalesh (who’s got his own solo US film Till Death, not the Megan Fox one, finished this year).
It took eight years, but finally the world gets to see what he can do with a big budget and with big stars, and he surely delivered on all that promise with Gunpowder Milkshake.
Bearing quite a bit of a resemblance to John Wick in the film’s world building, especially in how similar the concept for the Diner in this film is to that of the Continental in the John Wick films.
Fans of the John Wick franchise will find it easy to pick up and follow the rules of Gunpowder Milkshake’s world, in which our protagonist Sam (a super cool and stoic Karen Gillan) is a professional killer now hunting down assassins who tried to kill her.
It’s armed with some impressively ultra-stylish production design and plenty of awesomely shot and edited hand-to-hand combat and gunfight scenes that will completely satisfy fans of the genre, all of which are hung around a narrative that’s part action-thriller and part mother-daughter drama.
Yes, it’s not as wink-wink fun as some people hoped it would be, and it’s not as affecting as a mother-daughter drama should be in normal circumstances, but these are not normal circumstances anyway, as can be clearly deduced from the film’s world of over the top yet principled killers, so maybe that’s not a weakness/flaw after all?
Arriving out of nowhere from Amazon Prime, this Amazon Original movie from director Tanya Wexler is almost as stylish as Gunpowder Milkshake, but distinguishes itself from the flock by arming itself with a pretty cheeky sense of humour.
Kate Beckinsale charmingly delivers plenty of its jokes while playing the totally badass lead character Lindy, a former club bouncer with some serious anger management issues due to some sort of chemical imbalance that more or less gives her some superhuman abilities.
To combat that chemical imbalance, she’s advised by her psychiatrist to use a specially made contraption to shock herself back into normalcy whenever the urge for violence kicks in, which kind of makes it Crank meets John Wick, doesn’t it?
The plot kicks in when Lindy finally meets a guy she likes, only to find out the next day that he was tragically murdered, which of course sets her off on a violent path for revenge, finally making productive use of her chemical imbalance and anger management issues.
Lucky for the viewer, the movie doesn’t forget the sense of fun that Crank, especially Crank: High Voltage brought to the table, and even though the action scenes here are not of the same level of craft and ingenuity that one can find in the John Wick films, Nobody or even Gunpowder Milkshake, the minutes will fly by effortlessly while you’re watching this, making it very much a pleasant time-killer.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.