Review: ‘Guns Akimbo’ is Frenetic and Fun Nonsense
By Daniel Rester
Writer-director Jason Lei Howden’s Guns Akimbo feels like a blend of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), John Wick (2014), and Hardcore Henry (2016). If you have seen any of those movies, then you already know the kind of wild ride you are in for. This is a go-for-it film that has “future cult classic” written all over it.
Guns Akimbo stars Daniel Radcliffe as likable loser Miles Harris, a computer programmer who works at a company that runs a silly squirrel app game. He enjoys trolling other trolls on various platforms. One night, he does it on the dangerous site Skizm — which runs a live-stream service that showcases real-life criminals killing each other.
Due to the trolling, Miles is beaten and drugged by Skizm’s leader — Riktor (Ned Dennehy, too cartoony here) — and his goons. He wakes up later to discover pistols with fifty rounds each bolted to each of his hands. Riktor forces Miles fight in Skizm, going against the famously deadly Nix (Samara Weaving) — who has a tragic past and wants out of the game. As Miles avoids Nix, he also tries to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend Nova (Natasha Liu Bordizzo).
If Guns Akimbo were a human, it would be someone who snorted twenty lines of cocaine and then drank fifty energy drinks before getting into a gunfight. Howden’s film is all fast-paced style and little substance as Miles struggles to survive against goons, cops, Nix, and even his own boss. The result is something that’s numbing and exhausting at times but entertaining and exhilarating at other times.
Howden, who has a background in visual effects, stages the scenes with great attention to detail. The action always pops with plenty of color and character and music, coming across like a flashy and well-developed video game. Thankfully, Howden uses plenty of wide angles and lets characters pause briefly for quips and breathers between exchanging bullets. If he had gone for shaky cam and close-ups, this film could have been a nightmare.
Guns Akimbo tries to have a message about the effects of online bullying, but that mostly gets lost in the pile of insane shootouts. The thin plot is buried in this too. There are characters to root for though. Radcliffe, who is continuing to make inspired role choices post-Harry Potter, makes Miles a relatable everyday joe caught in a crazy situation; he’s funny and energetic in the role. Weaving, who was awesome in Ready or Not (2019), continues her winning streak as well. Nix is a troubled but badass character that Weaving gives a lot of personality to.
Teenagers and gamers will probably love Guns Akimbo. Older audience members who like the pacing to slow down at times in action films? Probably not. I enjoyed it because of the efforts of Radcliffe and Weaving and the creativity put into the wild violence. The film could have gone with less mean-spirited moments and more plot, but it still works as a jolt of entertainment.
My Grade: 7.5/10 (letter grade equivalent: B)
MPA Rating: R (for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language, drug use, sexual references and brief graphic nudity)
Running Time: 1h 35min
USA Release Date: February 28th, 2020 (streaming platforms)