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Stream It or Skip It?

Guns Akimbo is now available to rent on Amazon Prime; if you only know Daniel Radcliffe for playing Harry Potter, and not for a plethora of bizarre films, including Horns, Swiss Army Man and now this hyperbolic thing from Deathgasm director Jason Lei Howden (whose Twitter commentary earlier this year prompted this movie’s distributor to back away slowly from him). Guns is inspired by the violentest video games and several of the more violenter movies, and trades in hyperbole like a nuclear bomb trades in destruction. Will it be a wild ride or does it end up in the ditch?

GUNS AKIMBO: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

The Gist: Miles (Daniel Radcliffe) is a painfully unexceptional human being. He works as a coder on a dumb video game engineered to make children rack up purchases on their parents’ credit cards. He spends stupid amounts of time exchanging moronic insults with dingus internet trolls. He molders on his couch drinking beer in his boxers, pining for his ex, Nova (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). He’s a sad, depressed sack. Of crap.

And yet, the world outside is even worse — he lives in Shrapnel City, which makes Sin City look like the Emerald City. The citizenry is obsessed with an online thing called Skizm, a Death Race 2000/Mortal Kombat real-life gawkfest in which people kill each other for sport while millions watch, using the urban heckscape as a backdrop. Miles gets into it with the wrong keyboard warrior, and before he knows it, Skizm honcho Riktor (Ned Dennehy) shows up at his door with some goons to kidnap Miles and knock him out and bolt guns to his palms and force him to face off with reigning Skizm champ Nix (Samara Weaving). (I hate when that happens? Yep. I hate when that happens.) To say he’s not up for it is gross understatement.

But Miles’ survival instinct kicks in, so maybe he isn’t so much milk on toast. He ends up tangling Nova in his mess, and manages to get others — his work pal, his dickhead boss — killed as he darts and stumbles through the city, evading cold-blooded cokehead Nix. Blood is spilled, guts are spilled, brains are spilled and, moments after you’ve made an Edward Pistolhands joke, someone on the screen makes the same joke. Will Miles manage to not die and, more importantly, will we care either way

GUNS AKIMBO STREAM IT OR SKIP IT
©Saban Int’l/Courtesy Everett C

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: This is an utterly merciless blend of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Mad Max: Fury Road, Death Race, Evil Dead 2, Mandy, Crank, Shoot ’em Up and, uh, Crank 2 and, uh, double uh, Hardcore Henry. Does it have an identity of his own? Barely. 

Performance Worth Watching: Radcliffe is committed to this manic lunacy; meanwhile, we wonder if Howden needs to be committed for coming up with this manic lunacy.

Memorable Dialogue: In voiceover, Miles pleads with us not to give up on the movie, while possibly subtweeting Scott Pilgrim: “Don’t worry, this isn’t another story about a nerd trying to get the girl like she’s an Xbox achievement to be unlocked.”

Sex and Skin: Somehow, this sweaty, demented thing manages to not depict any really gross intercourse or the like. 

Our Take: Guns Akimbo makes a Sam Raimi horror film look like a British period drama. That’s not a good thing. Howden staples our bodies to the ceiling and plucks out our eyeballs so he can speed-bag them until they rip off the ocular nerve and fly across the room into the fan to get shredded into tiny bits of gore that fling onto a pizza that the cats eat unwittingly. If my metaphor for the experience of watching the movie seems too extreme and ridiculous, well, then you obviously haven’t watched it.

Howden’s camera flies and zooms and spins upside-down with hyperkinetic fury, emphasis on the hyper. He aims for… well, I don’t know what he’s aiming for. Disorientation? Discomfort? Disembodiment? Any number of other dis- words? The film errs on the side of obnoxiousness. When it’s not yelling, it’s screaming, and when it’s not screaming, it’s screaming louder. Its orgy of frantically stylized violence is backed by a soundtrack of the wurst of ’90s-esque industrial metal, which made me un-nostalgic for such stuff, although it’s surely deployed with sneering cynical irony like everything else in the movie. It’s “funny” in the sense that it’s trying so hard to be funny, it’s not funny.

Perhaps Guns Akimbo is commenting on the cruelty of internet culture, but it also might contradict that very commentary by being violent for its own sake. Critics of video-game mayhem (who are often wrongheaded in their broad stereotyping of the art form, by the way) will find plenty of grist for the mill here. Whether the movie exists to say something or merely entertain us with the crassest of gut-level OTT fodder, I can’t be sure, because it primarily functions as a cerebral numbing agent. 

Our Call: SKIP IT. Guns Akimbo aims for bad taste, but it’s just tasteless.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.

Stream Guns Akimbo on Amazon Prime

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