If you want to see a prime example of how to completely derail your new movie, career, and any feelings of goodwill that people may have for you then do check out the story of Jason Lei Howden, writer-director of Guns Akimbo. He has delivered a fun, frenetic, film here. I don’t think anyone is holding their breath for his next one though.
With that noted, let’s move to the actual content of the film itself. Daniel Radcliffe plays Miles, a young man who seems to be the definition of “a bit of a loser”. He spends his days working for a company that creates mobile phone games, has separated from his girlfriend, and spends a lot of his free time getting drunk and trolling people online, especially those who comment while watching Skizm, a videogame that takes real people and puts them against one another. His latest antics get him notices by Riktor (Ned Dennehy), the crazy boss of Skizm. That leads to Miles being caught, drugged, and waking up with a gun bolted to each hand. He has 50 bullets in each gun, no great shooting skills, and very low odds of surviving against the reigning champ, Nix (Samara Weaving).
Having previously given us the excellent Deathgasm, Howden has shown that he has a talent for comedy. While that film blended horror with the comedy, this is an action film that never strays too far away from absurdity. Even the first main sequence showing Miles trying to adapt to life with guns bolted to his hands provides some chuckles as the threat of accidentally shooting himself becomes immediately apparent while he tries to get dressed. The action is enjoyably over the top and some of the moments that highlight the difference between being a videogame player and being capable enough to handle any confrontation in the real world work really well.
Radcliffe is a lot of fun in the main role, absolutely useless for most of the runtime until he finds the courage to embrace his new form. Weaving is as good as she has been in most movies over the past few years, given a makeover here that makes her look even more badass and scarier than usual. Dennehy is good fun, Natasha Liu Bordizzo is just fine as the ex-girlfriend seeing a new side of Miles, and there’s a hilarious cameo from the brilliant Rhys Darby.
The big problem that Guns Akimbo has is the lack of proper focus. The action scenes are shot well, but they’re also deliberately stylised and unbelievable, putting them at odds with the level of development needed for Miles to stay alive. The comment on videogames and the ease with which we can find and pick fights online is potentially interesting, but dropped quite quickly (or, at least, buried by the rest of the plot and the gunfights). And the way the plot unfolds should be easy to predict if you have watched any action thriller made since the 1980s.
It’s definitely still worth your time though, very easy to watch and enjoy when you want something funny and violent that won’t cause you to overthink anything or delve into a period of introspection. The fact that it is a bit of a mess doesn’t matter as much as it rushes from one set-piece to the next, and everyone involved at least knows exactly what kind of film they’re participating in.
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