Guns Akimbo

I suspect Daniel Radcliffe may have perfected his American accent by watching Breaking Bad. He sounds so much like Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), or indeed his Bojack Horseman character Todd, it’s eerie. In Guns Akimbo, Radcliffe’s character Miles doesn’t just sound like these guys, he’s also the lovable loser type, the sitting on his couch type, the unmotivated type. But sometimes despite your best efforts, life finds you, and it makes some demands.

Miles is sitting on his couch “trolling the trolls” as he calls it, stirring up shit with his keyboard with big bad words from an anonymous account. But when there’s a sudden pounding on his door, it seems that Miles has finally trolled the wrong troll, as the criminals behind world-wide sensation Skizm drag him into their deadly game. Skizm pits two people against each other as millions stream live to watch them fight to the death. It’s a viral murder game that Miles wants no part of, but when he wakes up with gun stigmata (guns literally bolted to his right and left hands), he doesn’t have much choice.

So we spend 90 minutes watching him get stalked by opponent Nyx (Samara Weaving), search ex-girlfriend Nova (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), try really hard not to die, and adapt to having guns for hands – which includes recruiting help from homeless crackhead Glenjamin (Rhys Darby) for every day needs such as unzipping to pee, and liking stuff on Instagram. You know, the basics.

As you might guess, Guns Akimbo is 100% about the glorification of violence and surprisingly, I’m not that mad about it, mostly because it’s pretty forthright and honest about it. You’re not going to stumble into this one thinking it might be about a close-knit family dealing with sudden onset Alzheimer’s, or a couple who find each other late in life only to have one of them die tragically and slightly heroically in their lover’s arms. No. Guns Akimbo sounds exactly like it is: bang, bang, bang2. It spends its first 5 minutes dropping hints of animation to prepare us for what’s to come. It briefly pretends to be a social commentary to justify the approaching onslaught, but honestly, who needs it? Finally, it gives up the pretense and indulges in the stylized and blood soaked violence it promised, with a fanfare of 80s pop. You’ll feel as if you’ve jumped into a video game that’s definitely rated M, though that can’t possibly stand for Mature. Maniac? Madman? Murderous rampage? You’re not here for satire or plot, you’re here to bear witness to the sheer volume of spurting GSWs, severed arteries, spent casings, and blatant disregard for human life. It is not a credit to anyone’s moral fiber and it does not improve the human spirit but it is a fun if gratuitous ride through our seediest impulses.

Other movies have gone here before – Nerve with Dave Franco and Emma Roberts was not bad if you don’t mind superficial thrills with a side dish of already outdated youth culture. These movies apparently find no irony in critiquing our voyeuristic tendencies while also capitalizing on them.

Radcliffe is fun, Weaving is a poster child for why you never bleach your eyebrows, and Darby is a welcome laugh in an otherwise very black comedy. The soundtrack, featuring “Citrus Hill” amidst covers of bright 80s tunes, provides a hyper backdrop for frenetic death and destruction. Nyx shoots from the hip, Miles tries not to shoot off his own dick, and the whole thing’s just a riot of violence and tribute to the games and shows and songs that promote it.

10 thoughts on “Guns Akimbo

  1. Tom

    It’s not often I get caught up in the behind-the-scenes crap around movies, but I kind of just love how the movie is seemingly just an extension of director Jason Lei Howden. The fall-out from his twitter rants when this movie came out is just spectacular. He’s going to struggle hard to direct another movie. Surprisingly, this hasn’t made me turn away from Guns Akimbo. It has actually made me want to watch it even more!

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      1. selizabryangmailcom

        This was a crazy flick if you just let yourself go and enjoy…..
        It’s as far away from Harry Potter as you’re gonna get!
        What did you think of Uncut Gems? (Did you already do a review of it here? Sorry)

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      2. Jay Post author

        We did, but that was many months ago now.
        I appreciated some aspects of Uncut Gems but found it a very difficult watch. I realize it’s meant to be, but the Adam Sandler character is in constant crisis, he’s constantly dialed up to 11, always yelling, and the directors keep us up in his face the whole time so it’s both claustrophobic and anxiety inducing so I couldn’t say I “enjoyed” it although obviously it brilliantly portrayed its goals.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I love that he’s chosen so many weird indie roles. He clearly wants to distance himself from that defining but juvenile role and he’s done as wide a range as possible in the following years. This was definitely the anti-Harry.

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