Courtesy of Saban Films
“Guns Akimbo” is the movie I think “Hardcore Henry” wanted to be a few years back, except that aggressive and hyper-caffeinated adventure didn’t have the luxury of Daniel Radcliffe having guns sewn to his hands. Now it’s probable you saw the memes and chatter that unspooled through the Twittersphere when a set photo of Radcliffe leaked with him wearing nothing but a bathrobe and cozy tiger slippers while brandishing two guns. You also probably laughed as you kept re-posting the photo all over social media. I know I did.
In essence, the theme and messages of “Guns Akimbo” are cut from the same cloth of those who couldn’t stop sharing the viral photo. We’re all glued to technology, and that’s what director Jason Lei Howden tries to get across. The director’s recent Twitter meltdown none withstanding, “Guns Akimbo” won’t be remembered for a committed performance from Radcliffe, but a director who couldn’t take his own advice about online trolls and bullying.
Still, “Guns Akimbo” is loaded with promising set pieces, and world ideologies that “Hardcore Henry” or any other ultra-violent flicks of the genre lacked. The film doesn’t just want to kill the bad guys, it wants to teach them a lesson too.
Howden’s script takes us to Shrapnel City where a popular game named SKISM has millions of followers who stream it constantly. Like a deranged version of “The Truman Show,” folks log on to see peasants battle to the death and watch the worst of the worst brawl it out for total supremacy via drone feeds and pirated broadcasts. The current poster child is Nix (Samara Weaving – “Ready of Not”) – an escaped mental patient with a fear of fire and an urge to kill. (Her weapon of choice is nicknamed Kindness. Get it?) She’s a contestant the average person wouldn’t want to meet, so you can imagine her surprise when SKISM leader Richter (Ned Dennehy) pits her against lowly cubicle worker Miles (Radcliffe) who has literally zero combat experience.
It’s because the powers that be, know people will tune in for a bloody mutilation, even if it’s a loser who stands no chance of winning. Really, all Miles must do is stay alive long enough to get the upper hand on Nix or face the consequences awaiting him. Though that’s a rather complicated proposition when you’re running around with guns stuck to your hands and everyone just assumes you’re a meth head. The results though are a movie brimming with breakneck pacing, because Howden refuses to let the audience breathe.
And with a versatile Weaving – whose embracing her bad girl action persona quite nicely – and an American accented Radcliffe chewing (or is it shooting?) up the scenery at insane rates, “Guns Akimbo” fires on all cylinders and does anything it can to entertain you. Howden’s script does little in the way of character backstories (Nix is given one, but it feels like an afterthought) and all the self-awareness meta commentary on technology feels like a slap in the face. However, I’m always a fan of attacking toxic masculinity head on, and “Guns Akimbo” has that in strides.
In that regard, “Guns Akimbo” is kind of fun if you appreciate its goofy, blood-soaked infused zaniness. There’s not much here that won’t seem familiar to the unsuspecting eye, but you have never seen Radcliffe like this before, and there’s enough spunk and charm in the filmmaking to help “Guns Akimbo'' stand above the plethora of low-budget genre pictures. Though, If I were you, I’d pop a Tylenol beforehand to help sustain the after-effects of a film that’s utterly relentless.