Guns Akimbo is an excessively violent and extremely weird experience. It is also pretty funny with a lot of quipping amidst the chaotic splatter. The movie is basically cranked all the way up to 11 at the start and tries to break off the knob from there which can either be admirable or exhausting. The end result is a mix that flops between gleefully full tilt crazy and trying too hard. Although it can’t help but wallowing in a few clichés, the actors certainly make the film better than it probably should be. Heck, this is a movie about a guy who has guns bolted to his hands, it's going to be kind of strange.
Miles (Daniel Radcliffe) works in a dead-end software job and only finds joy in late nights at home where he trolls the trolls on the Internet. The biggest troll hive is the violent, hate-filled website Skizm, where livestream death matches are presented and Miles spends a night posting about how terrible everyone watching it is. This leads to goons kicking down his door, knocking him out, bolting two firearms to his hands, and forcing him to participate in the Skizm livestream where he has to fight against Nix (Samara Weaving). He asks for help from his ex-girlfriend, Nova (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), while the leader of Skizm, Riktor (Ned Dennehy), captures everything on video as Miles’ fight on the Skizm livestream makes him an unlikely celebrity.
There is an interesting character question if Miles was trolling the trolls because he was rightfully shocked by what Skizm is doing or if he just wanted to feel great about ripping into people on the Internet. The movie never quite answers this, although the notion that Miles isn’t as upstanding as he thinks he is hinted at by the bad guy. These are ultimately esoteric questions because basically the character of Miles is just an excuse for Radcliffe to look freaked out by the chaos. Still, he is genuinely funny with his exasperated reactions to the carnage unfolding around him. Radcliffe has taken some weird roles in his post Harry Potter career and this is one of the weirder ones as he delivers a sardonic but amusing voice over noting the insanity of the film.
The central twist involving guns strapped to his hands leads to a lot of strange scenes where he struggles to open doors, put on clothes and, in one of the movie’s funniest, bizarre moments, simply go to the bathroom without shooting himself in the genitals. There’s a great bit when Miles runs into a hobo (Rhys Darby) who makes a lot of random pronouncements as Miles needs his assistance. One misstep Guns Akimbo makes is devoting so much attention to Miles and his ex which feels superfluous as Bordizzo ends up being kidnap bait to raise the stakes. There is a really amusing moment earlier between her and Radcliffe when he jumps into her car and tries to talk around the fact that he’s hiding his hands in his pockets which leads to a funny reveal.
Guns Akimbo wants the audience to care about the relationship between Miles and his ex but the relationship that has the best chemistry is Miles and Nix. Weaving as Nix is kinetic and endearing as the crazy gun shooting gal who wrecks anyone in her way but throughout the course of the movie the banter between her and Miles becomes increasingly heartfelt. Weaving is a great performer, especially how she toggles flippantly between emotions during the numerous gunfights. Her introductory action scene wrecking random goons is great, also she gets in a solid, messy action scene in a close quarters hammer based brawl, and her exit from the film is oddly stirring. As the bad guy Riktor, Dennehy hollers at underlings with gusto. His core ideology is that he isn’t making violence for violence sake; instead he believes he’s making art. It’s a big, loud performance like everything in the film.
What makes Guns Akimbo work is the extreme glee thrown into the ultraviolence. If this movie took itself too seriously the bloodbath would be unbearable but since it is all done with a wink, it’s okay. There are a lot of ‘80s pop hits as the bullets go flying which helps establish the wacky the tone. The movie often shows the point of view of the Skizm livestream which is a constant stream of trolling comments and emojis. There are lots of videogame references with Miles realizing that when he shot a guy that there are no respawns, it’s very final. This cathartic recognition about the finality of gun violence is ultimately undercut mere minutes later when Miles is gunning down hordes of goons uncaringly but the fact that the movie ping-pongs from pathos to cartoonish splatter is a part of its overall insane vibe.
Guns Akimbo is a whacko movie that knows it is crazy which makes the one-liners and extreme violence palatable. It never takes itself too seriously as the central premise of a guy with gun hands is inherently cartoonish. This is basically stuck in overdrive the entire time which can either be enjoyable or irritating but it is certainly unlike any action movie out there.
Director: Jason Lei Howden
Starring: Samara Weaving, Mark Rowley and Daniel Radcliffe