Bloody Action Fun as Radcliffe Goes ‘Guns Akimbo’

by Nick Spacek on February 24, 2020

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

Eventually, we’re going to figure out how to do a first-person perspective in a movie that manages to work longer than the opening scene of Halloween, but we’re not there yet.

From Doom‘s action sequences to the entirety of Hardcore Henry, these pieces might appeal to folks who spend their days watching live streams on Twitch, but your average movie-goer isn’t going to be able to handle the madness which attends the likes of Jason Lei Howden‘s new film, the madcap action of Guns Akimbo, in theaters, streaming, and on digital HD Feb. 28.

“Miles’ (Daniel Radcliffe) nerdy existence as a video game developer takes a dramatic turn when he inadvertently gets caught up as the next contestant with SKIZM, an underground gang live-streaming real-life death matches. While Miles excels at running away from everything, that won’t help him outlast Nix (Samara Weaving), a killer at the top of her game.”

Guns Akimbo may become better known as “that movie where Harry Potter has guns bolted to his hands,” and that’s a pretty apt elevator pitch of the movie. There’s some romantic subplot, as well as an attempt at social commentary – Miles considers himself an online troll killer, but he’s just as much of an edgelord as the people whom he’s taking down after too many beers on his couch – but the real appeal of the movie is outsized action, and an absurd amount of blood.

It’s digital blood, FYI. There are minimal squibs, here, and while the movie’s gloriously violent, the CGI aspect of it definitely lends to a sense of unreality. Certainly, it takes a certain amount of disbelief being suspended to believe in a world where folks are having John Wick-style running gun battles in souped-up vehicles, which are then live-streamed to the world, and yet, it’s as normal as a UFC fight. The cops are involved, but it’s a way-minimal sense of involvement, and it’s mostly personal in nature.

The first time we see Miles and Nix meet one another, the fight’s pure comedy, and thanks to SKIZM’s live-streaming – as well as cutaways to folks watching at home, in bars, or as WWE-style fight commentators – we the viewers get to see and hear how everyone else is responding, as well. It’s thankfully used judiciously, so it’s not like being stuck inside a Discord serve for the movie’s full runtime, but it does offer up a glimpse into a larger world in a way which seems intrinsic to the story being told, rather than being forced exposition.

All that said, the entire point of Howden’s movie is one of action overload. Much like John Wick, the world-building aspects are cool and all, but the real appeal is seeing just how much each successive fight scene or action sequence tops the one which came before. The aforementioned running gun battle, which is the first time we see Weaving as Nix, is like something out of Mad Max, but transported to an urban environment, and it’s gloriously, absurdly dumb fun.

Thanks to the ever-increasing insanity of each interaction or fight, with bigger guns, more opponents, and crazier weapons, the inclination to lean on video game comparisons grows stronger, but given that pretty much every indie actioner with a sense of humor since Scott Pilgrim vs the World has done the same thing, it’s pretty much a thing now, becoming such a common trope that it doesn’t feel unnatural at this point. It can get a little delirious, but Howden keeps the camera moving in such a way that the scenes never get repetitive, and – more importantly – the viewer never gets confused about what’s going on due to too many quick cuts.

Radcliffe and Weaving are the stars of the show, although Weaving as Nix plays it a little too close to the vest, resulting in a character that’s more of an amorphous, unknown badass for most of Guns Akimbo. There are attempts at giving her a backstory, but it’s more in service of forwarding Miles’ story than anything else.

Lead villain Riktor is portrayed with scenery-chewing delight by Ned Dennehy. There’s a certain amount of delight in seeing the ancillary Harry Potter actor once again tormenting Radcliffe, to an extent even further than he did as Hogwarts’ caretaker, Filch. Again, though, he’s given just enough history to try to give him reason and purpose, but it’s not enough to take him into Bond villain territory. He falls somewhere between the world-conquering hopefuls of that series and the generic baddies with a grudge who’ve inhabited genre pictures since time immemorial.

Nick is a self-described “rock star journalist,” which is strange, considering he’s married with two kids and three cats. This is just further proof that you can’t trust anyone online. In addition to his work for Scene-Stealers, Nick can be found bitching about music elsewhere on the Internet at his blog, Rock Star Journalist, and the Pitch’s Wayward Blog.

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