Guns Akimbo (Jason Lei Howden, 2020)

It’s rare that a film with a big-name actor gets as far as being released without me knowing anything about it, let alone being watched. It’s occasionally an indicator that it is a big event film with a special surprise release by the distributor. More often, it means it’s just a terrible film that is trying to be buried.

I watched most of Guns Akimbo wondering which category it fell under. Is it absolutely terrible, or completely genius? It certainly isn’t for the squeamish, with Lei Howden (Deathgasm, Deathgasm 2: Goremegeddon) making sure the adrenaline doesn’t get much rest in the short running time.

The setup is straightforward. Daniel Radcliffe plays Miles, a video game coder living a fairly joyless life. He regrets letting a relationship with Nova (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), his ex, fizzle out. He learns of an illegal online game called Skizm – a survival game where contestants, who are usually criminals or psychopaths, fight to the death. He goes onto their online forums and leaves a few scathing comments. One thing leads to another, and he wakes up with pistols bolted to his hands and is the newest competitor in the game, taking on current champion Nix (Samara Weaving). With limited time and limited ammunition, Miles must choose to kill or be killed, whilst the world watches on.

It’s not an original concept for sure, with televised deathmatches being well explored in cinema. That said, there’s enough going on stylistically and a snappy-enough script to inject a bit of freshness into proceedings.

Daniel Radcliffe goes from strength to strength in his career as he continues to take on risky roles. It’s almost hard to believe he was still starring as Harry Potter a decade ago, when I wasn’t alone in thinking his acting hadn’t really improved over the ten year period he was involved in the franchise.

I’m not going to write about nuances of any of the acting performances. As solid as they are, this isn’t a nuanced film. The characters are caricatures, larger than life, fairly one dimensional affairs. Somehow this doesn’t cause any detriment to the overall impact. Lei Howden doesn’t leave space for the viewer to think about the characters, constantly just pushing forwards with one bloody action set piece after another.

Does it feel a bit too much at times? Maybe. But it’s never not fun, and sometimes that’s just what you need.

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