TL;DR – There is a kernel of a good idea here, and there are parts of it where you can see how it could have made a really good film, just maybe not the one we got
Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
When you here that the premise of a film is that someone has bolted guns to Daniel Radcliffe’s hands and let him loose in the world. Well, that congers up a lot of images and expectations, indeed Daniel has been bouncing from one delightfully odd film to the next since his time in/as Harry Potter. At the very least, it is the kind of set up when you know before walking in that it is either going to be amazing or a dumpster fire but not in-between. Well trust me, I am just as surprised as you that I got it very wrong.
So to set the scene, Miles (Daniel Radcliffe) is your usual loner who lives a less than great life as a code monkey for a soul-sucking corporation. But at night, he finally comes alive as he trolls, well other trolls. One night, however, things take a turn as he discovers ‘Skizm’, which is kind of like Twitch but with murder, indeed we are introduced to the program with Nix (Samara Weaving) annihilating another contestant because two people start and only one comes out alive. Well, Miles starts trolling the chat and eventually gets noticed by the admin Riktor (Ned Dennehy) who smashes down his door, knocks him out, and performs a little surgery. Miles wakes up with a splitting headache … oh and two guns bolted to his hands.
Now before we go on, it would be remiss of me not to mention that the director of the film went on a sustained attack over the last week to the point that Saban had to make a sort of apology about it all. I bring it up because it got so messy that I was wondering if I would review the film or not. In the end, I chose to because it was not the rest of the crew/cast’s fault the way the director turned out to be.
While there were a number of things that really held the film back to me, one area where it really shined was with many of the cast. Daniel Radcliffe is truly delightful here as the loner come wanted man come vigilantly. There is such weird energy to him, but it fantastic to watch at times as he completely throws himself into this role. To counterpart this, we have Samara Weaving as this unhinged murderer on a rampage but then there is also something clearly wrong with her. If there is a real highlight of the film, it is the banter between the tow of them. The film is also really funny at times, and many of those moments included Rhys Darby as Glenjamin, though to be fair, I have yet to see Rhys Darby in a role where he wasn’t amazing. Also while there is this veneer that this is set in an American city, this might be one of the most aggressive Kiwi films I have seen in a while and it is a pity that they did not embrace that more. However, while there are other moments that really shined if there was one word I would use to sum up this film it would be inconsistent.
One area where you really see that inconsistency is in its action scenes. There are a lot of action scenes throughout the film, but there is not a consistent style to them. At times cutting like crazy, like Resident Evil, sometimes it is the hyper-stylised violence of Deadpool, and sometimes it is touching of the slow-mo action that we see in Dredd. However, because there is no consistent style, we jump from supercuts to one long flowing action scene as the camera meanders around the place, there is no visual through-line to latch onto. To add to this, unfortunately, you can really tell at places that the film was working on a very tight budget (well at least I hope that was the case), and as Upgrade shows, having consistently can help compensate for that lower budget.
This also flows on to the story. You can see where they are going for in this film that we’d watch the heck out of people killing each other online, like Nerve but without the pretence that it is all messed up. It wants to critique online culture, the way it amplifies harassment, the way trolls work, and the whole social ecosystem that evolves around sites like Facebook, Youtube, Twitch, and many more. Now while all of this is the perfect fodder for people to critique and it was maybe one TikTok video away from being relevant … it never quite lands. Part of that is a thing they could not decide if they wanted to focus on online culture or video games as the focus of their critique. There are sight gags, like how he can do normal things with his hands that are funny at first but lose impact with each repetition. Also there is a point in the film where you can probably chart out how the rest of the film will go and you will probably be right on the money.
With this inconsistency, it leads to you having some characters really hamming it up in what I think was planning to be a parody of one-note video game character, but it feels like not everyone got the note. It also muddies the waters, because there are different issues between online culture and video games and it feels like the film would be stronger if it focused on one of them. This is also a film where you can see the references they are calling on like the back of your hand. Which is not a problem, unless you spend the whole film thinking about how good they were, which happened a lot of the time here. Also at one point, I could not help wondering how they were going to monetize Skism, I’m not sure if that is positive or a negative, but now you too might be thinking how they were going to monetize that and my work is done.
In the end, do we recommend Guns Akimbo? Well, that is a difficult one to say. If you like action films that tilt to the more mature MA side of the spectrum, then I would say it might be worth the admission just for Daniel’s bonkers performance alone. If you don’t like your action films that that MA space then I really can not recommend this film to you. If you did like Gun’s Akimbo I would also recommend Upgrade.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Guns Akimbo
Directed by – Jason Lei Howden
Written by – Jason Lei Howden
Music by – Enis Rotthoff
Cinematography by – Stefan Ciupek
Edited by – Luke Haigh & Zaz Montana
Production/Distribution Companies – Occupant Entertainment, New Zealand Film Commission, Saban, Madman.
Starring – Daniel Radcliffe, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Samara Weaving, Ned Dennehy, Rhys Darby, Mark Rowley, Colin Moy, Hanako Footman, Set Sjöstrand, Milo Cawthorne, Racheal Ofori, Jack Riddiford, Grant Bowler & Edwin Wright
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 18A; Germany: na; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: na; United States: R