Most people, at some point or another, have come across some sort of internet troll. If you are anything like me, I often find myself wondering what spineless lowlifes are behind the malicious keyboard attacks and what would happen if they were found out. Well, Guns Akimbo is a movie from New Zealand that does exactly that, except, this outcome is a hyper-stylized and violent story of cat and mouse. Guns Akimbo, more specifically, is a satirical dark comedy that looks at the over-glorification of violence in the world’s cultural subconscious. While it might sound like a deep interesting concept, the jury is still out on whether or not it is a worthwhile part of your time.
Guns Akimbo is about a mobile-game developer named Miles (played by Daniel Radcliffe) who is what you imagine every internet troll to secretly be: a no-life lonely man who never defends himself in real life and spends his time off work over-drinking cheep beer in his boxers. In this world, there is an “underground” fight club, called Skizm, that live-streams every fight-to-the-death match up to their hundreds-of-thousands of fans. Miles decides to troll the wrong people in the chat board of the stream and he is found by Skizm and is promptly knocked out. When Miles awakes, he finds two guns, with 50 rounds each, bolted to his hands and is thrown into a Skizm match against Nix (played by Samara Weaving), the deadliest killer in the game.
To start off, I have to say I’m getting really tired of the “let’s look like a video game” style. Ever since the style was beautifully done by 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, several movies have come out trying to recapture the glory of the style in that film. Guns Akimbo does have an excuse for the style, seeing as it is meant to satire violent video game culture, and for the most part does it very well. There are several effects in the film that come off really cool and clever. However, once the film introduces those effects, it never tries to expound on them or offer anything new. As a result, the quirky charm of the video game aesthetic quickly runs thin and tiresome. That said, there are some beautiful shots in this film. The cinematographer, Stefan Chiupek, and the lighting departments all need a raise. This movie has very hyper-stylized set designs and shots that are absolutely gorgeous. The use of color and contrast in all the action set-pieces bring every action piece to life, and add so much more enjoyment to the ultra-violence.
The performances in this movie are all over the place. On one hand you have Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving who absolutely crush it, and on the other hand, just about everyone else in the movie who just play cheesy characters who sound like NPCs in a video game. Ever since his role as Harry Potter ended, Daniel Radcliffe has been taking on a lot of very odd roles, several bad and several really good. This is one of the really good ones. Radcliffe does a fantastic job at delivering a sense of realness to the incredibly bonkers film and does a good job at keeping the viewer engaged in his otherwise shallow story. Samara Weaving, however, completely steals the show. Between her roles in this, Ready or Not? (2019), and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), I am beginning to think that she may be one of my favorite actresses in the business. Her playing this insane, coke-head killer is such a different role for her and she takes it and runs with it.
The other actors and actresses in this film, however, are just as shallow and lifeless as the film’s story itself. Throughout the film, the audience is bombarded cheesy line after cheesy line that never once brings out a single chuckle. The movie is supposed to be a satire about video game violence, not bad video game writing. There were several times where the main villain, played by Ned Dennehy, delivered lines in such a way that I thought I was watching a Scooby-Doo villain. Overall, the dialogue and characters all outside of the main two felt like they were ripped out of an entirely different movie, and made it feel like the filmmakers thought their audience would be dumb.
Despite the stunning visuals and great performances from Radcliffe and Weaving, the simple plot and over saturated video game derivatives that Guns Akimbo offers, leaves the audience feeling like they spent an hour and a half in the kiddie pool. If you are looking for something with well-done hyper violence and amazing visuals, this is the film for you. Otherwise, you are probably better off watching something else.
Guns Akimbo is rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language, drug use, sexual references and brief graphic nudity.