When I first heard about Saban Films’ new action comedy “Guns Akimbo” and watched the trailer I was sure it was based on a graphic novel or some comic property. It looked the part with the same over-the-top action clichés of films like “Sin City”, “Wanted”, or “Dredd” just to name a few. While it is not based on an IP, the fact that it seemed to shamelessly embrace those clichés had me intrigued because all of the aforementioned films were fun experiences. If it was anything like them then it promised a good time. Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving being in the leading roles didn’t exactly hurt my interest while director Jason Lei Howden seemed like a promising name seeing as his previous feature, “Deathgasm”, comes highly recommended. I gave the film a chance this past week and while it may not do much to push the genre forward it still serves as a raucous good time. If that enough to make it worth your $7? Let’s dive into this insane experience and find out. This is my review of “Guns Akimbo”.
“Guns Akimbo” sees Daniel Radcliffe sporting an American accent as Miles, a computer programmer who trolls internet trolls especially those who watch an underground live-stream competition called Skizm. Miles’ troll bashing leads him to be kidnapped by the creators of the game who bolt guns to each of his hands and make him the latest contender pitting him against the game’s greatest player Nix, played by Samara Weaving. As the two take their violence to the city Miles quickly becomes one of the game’s most popular players as he tries to escape his predicament. As I previously noted it’s not a very original idea. “Guns Akimbo” borrows a lot of elements that have been popularized over the last ten years or so with hyper realized violence and more focus on the entertainment value than the underlying themes the movie is trying to present.
From a surface level, “Guns Akimbo” takes full advantage of its setting and concept and while it might not be very original it gets everything it can out of the idea, at least in terms of action. The atmosphere and style are familiar but welcome as the movie shamelessly rips off countless better and more entertaining films. The action is always amped up and over the top as the movie barely slows down to breath. Let’s face it, if you’re watching “Guns Akimbo” the blood shed and drug use and insane barely-survivable scenarios are what you came to see. For the most part, it results in a fun, high octane thrill ride with neat, if clumsy, camerawork, hilarious misunderstandings and some enjoyable one-liners. Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving, who are the centerpieces of the film, also feel like they’re enjoying the experience maybe a little too much which helps keep viewers invested. Even when they’re saying nothing, they embrace the energy and quirkiness of the moment and their back-and-forth banters, when we finally get them, make for some fun dialogue between two very different people both thrust into a deadly game of tag. I wish we saw more interaction between the two because it takes almost half the movie for them to really embrace their chemistry, but when they do start to click it only makes their match-up even more entertaining.
I can give credit to the film for trying to have an underlying theme but really this is just a shameless action comedy without much added substance. Underneath the surface is a vaguely realized criticism of troll culture and America’s obsession with violence as entertainment. This could have been an interesting theme to add more deth to the narrative, especially seeing as the name of the game is Skism, a play on the word “schism” which implies discord and separation between political or religious parties. The closest we get to exploring such a theme is the differing personalities of Miles and Nex which isn’t really based on politics of beliefs as much as sanity versus insanity. Any criticism of the obsession with violence is simply expressed through Radcliffe’s character throwing a few F-bombs at the in-film viewers from time to time while viewers laugh at his expense. This could have been a fun attempt to break the fourth wall to criticism the actual viewer but it never comes off that way. I feel like this film has a lot of missed potential and the themes it does choose to embrace are too reminiscent of prior action offerings. No matter how hard I tried to appreciate this film for what it is I just kept coming back to the fact that it’s all repeated ideas that I’ve seen in better movies which themselves weren’t even great works of art.
Probably the biggest miss in “Guns Akimbo” though is the villain. This movie gives us a extremely forgettable antagonist in the form of the game’s creator Riktor, played by Ned Dennehy. This could have been a complex villain whose motives should have involved some kind of test of humanity or an exploration of the dividing factors of society, again playing off the name of his game. That would have made him interesting. Instead he’s simply a tattooed drug-lord who basically is just in it for the money. There’s no madman perspective on the state of entertainment, not insightful perspective on the human race, no thirst for chaos…just money and a view count. That’s all he’s interested in. We get so little understanding of what makes this guy tick and his design and dialogue do little to separate him from his own lackeys. He’s simply forgettable and uninteresting. Like the deeper themes explored by “Guns Akimbo”, Riktor ends up being a barely-realized plot tool overshadowed by the game he created.
Where “Guns Akimbo” really shines is with the action. It’s ripped straight out of previous films who did it a lot better, but there’s just something about the energy and insanity that had me hooked. It’s a shameless knockoff but a good shameless knockoff. I get the feeling anyone that spends $7 on a movie called “Guns Akimbo” isn’t exactly looking for insightful cinema. They want guns, blood, high octane action, swearing and corny one-liners which are all very present throughout. Even then though, when looking at this film as pure entertainment it lacks that special something to stand out. The villain is lame and poorly defined, the action is fun but too familiar, and naming the game Skizm insinuates deeper ideas the movie never truly explores. There are better films that offer the same kind of action with more substance and style. If you’re looking for something fun to waste your time this movie does the trick, but if you’re looking for anything unique or fresh it’s a entertaining disappointment.