Is there an actor who has had the weirdest career path post big break than Daniel Radcliffe? Thanks to what must be ‘set for life’ money after playing Harry Potter for eight movies, Radcliffe has gleefully pursued whatever the heck he damn well pleases since, from devil, to farting corpse, to man with guns bolted into his hands. Yes, this is Guns Akimbo.
Miles (Radcliffe, Escape From Pretoria) is a sad loner of a man. He whiles away his working days on a non-descript free-to-play gaming app for an uncaring company, whilst spending his evening trolling message boards and lamenting his lost love.
But when he starts a flame war in the Skizm boards, things go horribly wrong. Skizm is a widely popular, underground death match show that live streams across the US. Contestants are forced to battle to the death to satisfy a baying public. Unfortunately for Miles, he becomes one such contestant.
Miles seeks help from nerdy friend, Hadley, tries not to scare ex-girlfriend, Nova, and rages against Skizm gamemaster, Riktor (and his colourful henchmen), all while stuck in his dressing gown and with guns forcibly screwed into his hands. With super lethal opponent Nix (Samara Weaving) hunting him down across the streets of New York, the odds against Miles surviving are high.
Guns Akimbo delivers this premise without any hint of subtext. Blood spatters the screen in a way to make you shout “duuuude!” at the TV, but this is not The Hunt or Battle Royale. There are no layers to peel back and talk about once the wave of red has washed away. Think The Truman Show without the societal commentary, The Running Man without its game show one upmanship frisson, or Crank without its……no, wait. Just think Crank.
Does that make Guns Akimbo bad? No, absolutely not. It makes it shallow and lacking in the kind of layered hooks that catch in your flesh and reel you in for further rewatches.
But bad? No. Guns Akimbo is good dumb fun, like locking yourself in a room and smashing things with a hammer for the sheer hell of it. Like setting a spark loose into a box full of matches. Guns, guts, and explosive gore fill a niche need in our lives from time to time, and Guns Akimbo scratches that itch with glee.
Is Guns Akimbo Worth Watching?
Radcliffe’s air of desperation recalls his far meatier role in Horns, but he pulls the humanity out of his threadbare character, and you will cheer him on as he crashes through his self-made fate.
Samara Weaving is equal parts bombast and nihilistic nuance, plus Riktor (Ned Dennehy) gives it large as the kind of psychotic murdering dictator that drove action films in the eighties yet is very well placed here.
Guns Akimbo taps heavily in video game aesthetics which fire by shot by shot thanks to some smooth editing. However, there is a lack of the kind of individualism needed to ultimately stand out and pacing is a problem.
Writer / Director Jason Lei Howden hits hard quickly to the point where later set pieces feel longer, rather than surprising you by going one step further.
Other schlocky movies like Upgrade knew when to take it up a notch to keep you wincing. Ideally, Howden could have held back some blood-soaked shocks so we could writhe with glorious ‘urk,’ but unfortunately Guns Akimbo keeps things at an even keel to the point that the finale works mostly due to Radcliffe’s journey to get there rather than a culmination of all the movie has to offer.
Those guns may be bolted to your hands the first time, but once freed from them there will be little reason to pick them up again.
Words by Mike Record