Shimmering Neon Lights: ‘Gunpowder Milkshake,’ ‘Jolt,’ And The Daughters of ‘John Wick’

It’s fairly possible that even with out the streaming content material rush, the John Wick collection would have spawned a quantity of imitators. The three Wick movies’ upward trajectory from minor style hit to summer-movie occasion has elevated demand sufficient to lead to credible imitators like Atomic Blonde (John Wick as a girl spy in 1989) and Nobody (John Wick as a put-upon suburban dad). But streaming providers have turned neon-accented, lone-badass-in-a-stylized world motion photos into one thing resembling a glut, particularly on the subject of female-fronted variations. In July alone, Netflix has put out the Karen Gillan shoot-em-up Gunpowder Milkshake whereas Amazon debuted the Kate Beckinsale punch-em-up Jolt. This fall will deliver Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Netflix’s Kate; even a barely-released curiosity like Ava, a poorly reviewed Jessica Chastain car from final yr that’s like Wick redone as a household cleaning soap, has climbed the Netflix charts this yr. Surely Milla Jovovich will get one of these going quickly.

Jovovich’s fellow Screen Gems heroine Kate Beckinsale looks like a pure match for this world too, given her long-term moonlighting within the Underworld collection. Like Wick‘s Keanu Reeves, she has both the acting chops and the physical skills to bring a sense of humanity to her action heroics. Jolt doesn’t take full benefit of its stars’ presents in both space. It dabbles in each, extra efficiently when it explores the fad that fuels Lindy (Beckinsale), a lady with an impulse-control glitch and accompanying coaching that makes her a probably lethal weapon if somebody pisses her off. She can solely management herself by way of a self-administered electrical shock, engineered by her therapist/electrician (Stanley Tucci). When an unusually promising romantic prospect breaks by way of her common misanthropy, Lindy opens herself up; when her not-quite-boyfriend meets a sticky finish, she unleashes herself in revenge. 

Tanya Wexler’s film is most intriguing when it’s nudging lone-badass dynamics out of the pulp-cartoon zone. Though it’s bought loads of neon lighting, an unnamed “city” setting that appears like pretend New York (the higher to deal with subway etiquette), and a heightened quippiness, Lindy’s triggers are sometimes quotidian—man-spreading, impolite individuals, and the concept that she ought to hold her anger locked away. It could be much more resonant if the film was much less arch or cutesy; the dialogue has the with and depth of an “I Hate People” t-shirt, which Beckinsale should supply as if it incorporates outrageous bon mots. Despite some provocative concepts, Jolt‘s violence is ultimately more expressive than its text—and Wexler only delivers those thrills in bits and pieces. Gunpowder Milkshake has more Wickian set pieces: It’s impressively devoted to producing as many shoot-outs and fights as attainable. Like Ava, it tries to dimensionalize the loner-assassin archetype, with Gillan as a skilled killer understanding her mommy points by defending a bit woman from hurt. The aesthetics of this enterprise are beautiful, recalling the sheer magnificence of Atomic Blonde, with the compulsory neon lighting and crisply organized set design. 

Photo: ©Amazon/Courtesy Everett Collection

If John Wick and Atomic Blonde really feel just like the dad and mom to kids like Gunpowder Milkshake and Jolt, the newer films also can hint some lineage again to tongue-in-cheek mid-2000s motion films: Jolt is mainly reverse Crank (the place Jason Statham needed to adrenalize himself, and within the sequel shock himself, again to life), whereas Milkshake bears some resemblance to Shoot ‘Em Up (which, like Gunpowder, also pitted its hero against a sputtering Paul Giamatti). It’s hanging to see these dude-focused paeans to going excessive reconceived as ladies’s tales, rejecting cartoony nihilism and revealing the fashion-plate tendencies of closely stylized motion heroes within the course of. 

It’s additionally fascinating to see how these newer variations method the inevitable juvenilia: the built-in base thrills that the flicks should arrange as a way to wink at. Gunpowder Milkshake, for instance, typically feels girlier than one thing like Atomic Blonde—not within the misguided-pejorative sense that it’s “too girly,” however in phrases of how little Gillan’s character seems like an grownup girl in comparison with Theron’s operator in Blonde. Even if that arrested high quality is an element of the film’s thematic concern, it feels particularly obvious when Gillan meets up with mentor characters performed by Carla Gugino, Angela Bassett, and Michelle Yeoh—and never as a result of they outclass the film with their elder-stateswoman sophistication. Instead, they’re become cuddly empowerment mascots who spend loads of time ripping off the John Wick tailor scenes. 

Gillan is an excessive amount of enjoyable within the extra comedian set items—trying to fend off assassins with non-functioning fingers, for instance—to name the Gunpowder Milkshake‘s vision of righteous pulp violence infantilizing. The filmmakers obviously want the milkshake sweetness to chase away all that gunpowder; that’s half of the design scheme. But each Gunpowder and Jolt really feel a bit junior-level subsequent to Atomic Blonde, which choreographs its base thrills with extra gusto—and, even with out a lot emotional depth, sustains its mixtape moods with much less contrivance. Jolt and Gunpowder have their moments, however they every have components that really feel algorithm-generated. They’re object classes in how troublesome it’s to stylize a cult film into existence. 

Jesse Hassenger is a author residing in Brooklyn. He’s an everyday contributor to The A.V. Club, Polygon, and The Week, amongst others. He podcasts at and tweets dumb jokes at @rockmarooned.

Watch Jolt on Amazon Prime

Watch Gunpowder Milkshake on Netflix

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