It’s always weird when a director tanks his own movie before it even comes out but it does happen. Josh Trank did it to his version of Fantastic Four (2015) when he made sure to let everyone know the final version of the film wasn’t his vision and put all the blame on the studio. Things didn’t go so well at the box office and, even with a terrible reputation, I was surprised by how bad it was. That’s not exactly the case with Guns Akimbo but writer/director Jason Lei Howden didn’t do his movie any favors by engaging in a bizarre Twitter argument that lit up social media right before its scheduled release date.
Seemingly a cross between Nerve and Wanted, Howden’s movie is a violent and vibrant joyride even if not entirely original. In a world where a live streaming murder competition called “Skizm” has become the latest viral sensation, an angry programmer, who spends his nights trolling internet message boards, pisses off the wrong guy and winds up in the middle of the game with a pair of pistols bolted to his hands.
Daniel Radcliffe does the honors as a kind of Edward Pistol-hands, continuing to distance himself from his days as Harry Potter with roles such as this. He brings the charisma and energy you’d expect to the role but he’s really the only character with any foundation and even he’s not very deep. Unwittingly drawn into a world he despises, Miles is forced to scheme and shoot his way to the head of Skizm when his ex-girlfriend is kidnapped to incentivize him. Radcliffe has a good grasp of the humor at play and manages to be a sympathetic hero despite a general lack of heroic qualities. This is yet another eclectic choice and a good example of his bankability as a leading man.
Samara Weaving (Ready or Not) was entertaining opposite Radcliffe and you could see her versatility but the character leans more towards cartoonish. That applies to the rest of the cast too and that is ultimately the point but it spirals more the further it gets from the lead. It’s more about simple, easy fun than keeping the audience invested in the character dynamics.
Howden’s script never quite achieves the level of social satire it purports but it does have a very distinct visual style and is one of the more colorful movies I’ve seen in a long time. From lighting choices to location filming to the graffiti art adorning many of the sets, nearly every scene is bursting with color. With bullets flying all over the place, the fight scene choreography is stronger than I expected and the cinematography that accompanies it put a unique creative spin on the shootouts.
Timing is everything and the deck was stacked against Guns Akimbo. It’s a fast-paced, mostly light-hearted shoot-em-up dark comedy. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed.
Recommendation: Looking to turn your brain off for an hour and a half, then this is just what the doctor ordered.