Gunpowder Milkshake’s diner doesn’t hold up well against John Wick’s Continental in terms of grandeur, code, or as a hallowed ground for assassins.
WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Gunpowder Milkshake, now available on Netflix.
Gunpowder Milkshake offers a version of the Continental Hotel from the John Wick franchise — a domain where the underworld’s violence is restricted and a parley between interested parties can be achieved with an expectation of safety. Wherein Charon and the other denizens of the century-old hotel add solemnity and a code of conduct upon the world in which they interact, the Diner where Rose the waitress offers to “lighten your load” seems woefully ineffective as a safe haven or touchstone in understanding the surrounding environment.
There is something to be said for presentation. The Continental is a metropolitan palace set in the heart of New York City. Approaching its opulent vestibule carries a sense of tradition and fidelity to the stones on which one walks. The Diner by comparison looks like a place where someone would check its most recent health inspection score before cutting into a piece of maybe-meat. The contrasting luxuries in and of themselves are not indicative of much, except in the sense that a person may be more wary of wiping their feet when entering a maintained house, rather than a ramshackle. Aesthetics aside, the Diner doesn’t seem to be a place that commands much respect.
Sam, Gunpowder Milkshake‘s heroine, meets her mother, Scarlet, an assassin of renown, in the early moments of the film at the Diner. Rose, one of the waitresses who oversees the place, asks anyone who enters to leave any guns with her. She doesn’t frisk them or scan them — she simply asks if they are certain about whether or not they’re sidling a sidearm. The system seems entirely predicated on honor, which also, in and of itself is fine — except that the rules of the place seem extremely fluid.
When John Wick broke the code of peace within the Continental’s walls, it sparked the driving animus of an entire sequel. Scarlet shoots her way out of the diner, killing all of the “Russians” who followed her there, with a gun that Sam leased from the Library, a brokerage for weapons and resources known to assassins throughout the region. After doing so, Rose has almost no reaction. One of the Russians was armed with a knife, but the rest seemed to have followed the no gun mandate. But why?
There is no accompanying backstory as to how the Diner became an agreed upon refuge from bullets and gunpowder. When coupled with the way the norms as established by the film are broken so quickly and egregiously, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why the Diner would ever be considered a safe haven again by the criminal element that relies upon it as a venue of armistice.
Which is why the final battle seems so broken. Sam hands herself over to a crime lord to save a little girl who he’s holding as a hostage. The Diner is decided upon as the place where the exchange will happen. Even if in the intervening 15 years Rose and her colleagues have rehabilitated the image and reputation of the Diner as a place that can be trusted, considering that it was Sam’s mother who broke the pact 15 years ago, it would seem prudent that her enemies ignore the rule or demand some type of concessions. As Sam resigns herself to being killed slowly in front of the little girl she came there to save, her mother shows up, armed with a shotgun and two old friends — also carrying heavy — who are all dressed in the same waitress uniform that Rose wears.
They proceed to blow away more than a dozen men, none of whom are carrying a gun. They have blades of every type, brass knuckles, batons — any and every melee weapon one could imagine. Unfortunately they’ve all brought the proverbial knife to the anecdotal gun fight and are massacred as a result.
The slaughter isn’t gratifying as much as it is perplexing. Rose must have colluded with Scarlet and her team to allow this trap to be sprung. What credibility could the Diner possibly retain after that? How is the building still standing if you are a criminal who has walked through those doors in days past, potentially with a vulnerability you were unaware of, and not burn it to the ground, whether you were involved directly with the massacre or not? The thin framework of the world building makes the pact bindings seem translucent, while the bedrock foundation of the Continental might as well be chiseled into a pair of stone tablets.
Directed and co-written by Navot Papushado, Gunpowder Milkshake is now streaming on Netflix. It will play in theaters internationally later this summer.
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