A couple of weeks prior to its release, writer-director of Guns Akimbo Jason Lei Howden targeted certain members of Twitter with accusations of online bullying. The anger was somewhat understandable but his targets were not involved in the alleged crime and the way he went about it was not okay. He did exactly what he was accusing them of, and while I would love to not mention any of this because it’s not in the movie, Guns Akimbo is a power fantasy about a Keyboard Warrior™, so one has to mention Howden’s real-life actions when contextualizing how he made an entire film about this exact type of person.
The lead is Miles (Daniel Radcliffe), a programmer who spends his free time trolling the people making nasty comments on the internet. It makes him feel like a hero, he tells us through narration. One day he steps into the comments section of a “game” called Skizm, which is a broadcast that sees people engaged in a death match. It supposedly picks criminals and “psychos” for the games, but after Miles starts engaging with the community, the game picks him. He has 24 hours to kill the current champion-of-sorts, Nix (Samara Weaving), or he will be killed himself. Also, they bolted two handguns to his hands, so he can’t open doors or put on clothes or a whole host of other things. Because it’s funny.
What results from this are a few brutally violent action scenes and not a whole lot else. Miles speaks out against the game and the people watching and running it, and eventually sets out to shut it down instead of doing what was demanded. It’s straightforward and gets its points across. It wants to satirize our obsession with ultraviolence and condemn the toxic communities online, but also gleefully showcases tons of that very same violence and has a filmmaker who contributes, more than most, to that online toxicity. This is one that’s going to difficult to square away for many audience members.
Guns Akimbo is fun for a while, until the point that you realize it’s got nothing more to offer. This is about two or three action scenes in, when we’ve already accepted its surface satire, figured out where the story is going, and just have to strap in and wait it all out. The action doesn’t evolve or change—it’s almost all just bland shooting, save for the obligatory car chase—and the characters are cardboard thin. Radcliffe and Weaving are fun but they’re not given a whole lot to work with when it comes to their characters.
To its credit, Guns Akimbo does have some fun visuals, a couple of (childish) gags that are moderately effective, and if you’re into the ultraviolence, well, it’s a lot of that. People get shot a lot and they bleed profusely as a result. I guess that’s fun? The film’s attempt to satirize this rings a little hollow when it seems to revel in the violence more than be repulsed it. The pacing is also relentless, so if you’re the kind of person who likes watching bullets getting fired for the entirety of a film’s running time, then Guns Akimbo won’t disappoint.
With its poor attempts at social commentary, a lack of creativity in its action scenes, and poor characters, Guns Akimbo feels like a waste of a good idea. It revels in the thing it, in theory, condemns and it doesn’t give its actors enough character depth to work with and for its audience to care about. No amount of neat visuals, childish humor, or spurting blood is going to make up for that.
Conclusion: Guns Akimbo does not accomplish what it sets out to achieve.
Recommendation: Guns Akimbo will only appeal to those seeking shallow 90-minute shootouts.
- Rating - 4/104/10