“Never bring a spork to a gunfight.” – Nix, Guns Akimbo
It’s sage advice such as this that drives Jason Kei Howden’s Guns Akimbo, a film super-charged by red bull and ready for blood at every turn. Set in the present day, Guns Akimbo tells the story of Miles (Daniel Radcliffe), a mild-mannered video game developer who, after a night of combatting internet trolls, inadvertently finds himself forced to participate in a real-life (and live-streaming) death match on the dark web site, Skizm. Awakening with two handguns strapped to his arms, Miles soon finds himself in the cross-hairs of Nix (Samara Weaving), the game’s most popular (and powerful) killer.
Free-wheeling and fired up, Guns Akimbo feels like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World had it been directed by Eli Roth. Over-flowing with adrenaline and blood splatters, Howden’s film pops and spins with the energy of a video game brought to life. Featuring a soundtrack rooted in ’80s pop tunes with a pounding new pulse, Akimbo is designed to power-up the viewer for a rocket ride of carnage and chaos. While the film isn’t profound, it does win over its audience with its sheer glee for wanton destruction.
Howden makes good use of Radcliffe’s overall likeability as Miles, a lost and lonely game developer who meekly rolls through each day at his desk and pines for his ex-girlfriend at night. Since moving on from the Harry Potter franchise of his childhood, Radcliffe has deliberately chosen wild and unexpected projects in order to avoid typecasting and Akimbo is yet another push away from the beaten path. As Miles, Radcliffe brings his own brand of awkward innocence and humour to the character as he grapples with his new reality of having locked and loaded limbs. Strong ‘only behind a keyboard’, Miles is the furthest thing from a killer and absolutely no one’s hero. While the film has no restraint when it comes to carnage, it also appears to want to criticize the viewer for enjoying themselves. Although his job is to create an online game, Miles lives in a very real world, complete with dead-end job and lonely nights. As an everyman, he takes no joy in his situation and recognizes the inherent evil of becoming the villain in his own story. (Essentially, imagine a lead character from Grand Theft Auto with a moral compass.)
Though, herein lies the incredible irony of Guns Akimbo. Interestingly, while the audience takes in the craziness, Akimbo somewhat bites back at those who are thrilled by the killing of Skizm. Well aware of the drones chronicling his every move, Miles at one point even screams at his audience, blaming them for his situation because of their addiction to the violence. When the film cuts to the viewers, they simply laugh off his judgments, taking nothing to heart. In moments like these, the film appears to want to make a commentary on our culture’s passion for bloodlust. However, the film’s own interest in the thrill of the hunt mixed with its pulse-pounding soundtrack undermines the argument by quickly reminding the viewer that the bloodshed is all in good fun. As a result, Guns Akimbo ends up reinforcing the very joy of carnage that Miles seems to stand against at the film’s outset. Slowly but surely, the fantasy of a ‘video game world’ becomes the new reality and it does so with a smile. (In this way, the film is somewhat of a disappointment in that it misses the opportunity for a genuine exploration of a culture obsessed with violence.)
Wild and disorderly, Guns Akimbo makes no apologies for its enthusiastic attempt to bring online gaming into reality. Without question, this is a film that wants to entertain without fully committing to its social commentary. It’s loud, violent and strangely fun in an adrenaline-fueled way… so pick up the popcorn and pass the Red Bull.
Guns Akimbo lets the carnage rain in theatres on Friday, February 28, 2020..