2020, R, 93 mins.
Daniel Radcliffe as Miles / Samara Weaving as Nix / Natasha Liu Bodizzo as Nova / Ned Dennehy as Ricktor
Written and directed by Jason Lei Howden
I will give Daniel Radcliffe full props for flipping the bird to conventional post-HARRY POTTER movie roles.
After seeing GUNS AKIMBO I can positively relay that it gives SWISS ARMY MAN - an absurdist survival comedy that featured the actor playing a chronically farting corpse - a run for its money for being the looniest Radcliffe movie that I've ever laid eyes on.
I remember never being truly supportive of his performance range during the entirety of his HARRY POTTER run (I generally found his work to be kind of stiff), but he most assuredly deserves high praise for the sheer audacity of his career choices as of late. Radcliffe seems game to try just about anything on screen as of late.
And I do mean anything.
Let me set up the
limitlessly bizarre premise of GUNS AKIMBO for you all.
In a bleak near future world exists a brutal underground cult known
as SKIZM, which has achieved massive popularity for live streaming real
death matches between all sorts of sociopaths.
Living in this warped world is Radcliffe's Miles Lee Harris, who
works a lowly and go-nowhere job as a video game programmer.
He faces cripplingly verbal abuse from his boss on a daily basis,
which leads to the introverted dweeb spending most of his free evenings in
his flat engaging in all sorts of keyboard warrior trolling on various
chat forums, with one being on the SKIZM servers.
Even though he faces a constant barrage of online abuse in the expletive
laced arguments with complete strangers online, Miles somehow gets off on
it. Plus, he's all alone
after a nasty break-up with his girlfriend (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), which
he has trouble processing.
Miles has a near
obsession with crashing the SKIZM message boards and pulls no punches in
barraging its users with all sort of petty insults.
Unfortunately for him, his apartment is broken into by some hired
goons that work for SKISM's insane head honcho
Riktor (Ned Dennehy), who proceed to beat and drug the unsuspecting
coder. When Miles awakens the
next morning he's in for a whole different form of shock: He discovers to
his absolute horror that he has a pair of guns surgically bolted to his
hands, with each of his fingers sewn into the grips and triggers.
Even worse is that he has
been thrown into the next live streamed SKIZM match as punishment for his
chat room antics, and his first opponent is the ultra lethal and nearly
impossible to kill Nix (Samara Weaving), who's small in stature, but a
hungry killing machine that shows absolutely no mercy whatsoever.
Well, it could be
worse, actually. At least Miles isn't a dead body with flatulence issues.
GUNS AKIMBO does benefit from some modest cleverness with its out-there,
most dangerous game premise. We've
all seen many films before involving people hunting other people for
sport, to be sure, but rarely with the macabre twists that writer/director
Jason Lei Howden offers up here. Let's just say that he explores all of the embarrassing - and
sometimes nauseating - issues that arise when a human being has guns surgically
attached to both of his hands and without usage of any of his fingers.
Eating is kind of out, not to mention basic bathroom functions
(unzipping your pants and holding your...ya know...is painfully tricky)
and - gasp! - using your smart phone in any meaningful way is next
to impossible (Miles' nose comes in handy in terms of screen navigation
and inputting tactile commands). One
little extra tidbit that I neglected to mention is that each of Miles'
weapons contains just 50 rounds each, meaning that he has to - like a
video game character with low ammunition - preserve each shot and make
them count (especially thorny if you're not a firearms expert).
Plus, getting assistance from just about anyone - including the
police or ex-girlfriends - is really dicey, because the sight of one
sporting gun hands raises quick and frightened suspicion.
A lot of GUNS
AKIMBO reminded me of the equally nuttier than a fruitcake CRANK
series of films on levels of pure black comedy lunacy.
And it's easy to be taken in with the idea of an online trolling
nerd getting dumped in an ultimate nightmare scenario of being coerced
into playing the same unsimulated death match show that he took great
pride in ripping into. Of
course, there's the predictable arc of seeing this scared out of its wits
nobody slowly, but surely, learn the ropes of his nightmarish predicament
and acclimate to the best of his abilities to stave off death, but it's
made all the more crazily inspired Radcliffe's absolutely go-for-broke
commitment to role, which demands a highly difficult level of physicality
and an affinity for embracing the over the top slapsticky nature of the
whole enterprise. And, damn,
Radcliffe is thanklessly good and quite amusing as this sad sack forced to
be a televised action hero, and he's wonderfully paired with borderline
unrecognizable Weaving (who was sensationally in last summer's equally
violent horror comedy READY OR NOT)
as her machine gun and bazooka blasting pixie murderer that makes Harley
Quinn look mentally well adjusted. She
scores a lot of twisted laughs because of her nonchalant attitude towards
murder-death-killing her prey, much to the equally hysterical anxiety
displayed by Miles in response.
thematic subtext of GUNS AKIMBO is blatantly apparent in terms of trying
to engage in meaningful commentary about modern gamer and online culture,
and the toxic extremes that exist within.
Howden is aiming, I think, for nail biting satire about how one
social media commenter goes from being a hidden voyeur that hides behind
the anonymity of the Internet that's thrust into the very public spotlight
of participating in the thing he loathes without consent.
One of the biggest problems, though, with GUNS AKIMBO is that it
really offers up nothing of witty substance to its attacks on savage cyber
bullies and the dehumanizing subculture of insta-celebs that become famous
overnight for the wrong reasons. There's the initial coolness and poetic justice of a gamer
addict like Miles being an unwilling and victimized participant in a real
life video game with dangerous consequences, but Howden never pushes seems
to know what he really wants to say about all of this.
GUNS AKIMBO appears to be lustfully enamored with its ever-growing
monotonous mayhem and hyper violence the longer it progresses...and less
so with social messaging about said carnage.
By the time the film reached an anti-climatic conclusion I felt
that all it offered up was empty minded spectacle and numbing
carnage, and not much else.