There have been many films that have tried to tackle the concept of a live-action video game, and yet few actually managed to pull it off.
From Crank to Gamer, you can go on any streaming service now and find movies that hit that genre, yet none have pulled it off near as well as Jason Lei Howden’s new film Guns Akimbo. This wild action-comedy hits all the right notes to make it one of my top films from TIFF 2019.
Guns Akimbo follows Miles (Daniel Radcliffe), your typical “everyman” coder who loves to “troll the trolls”. After a night of drinking and ill-advised messages in the comment section for an underground deathmatch ring called Skizm, he finds himself in a fight for his life. Now, with guns bolted to his hands, he must face off against Nix (Samara Weaving), a cold-blooded killer, in a fight to the death. With the whole world either watching or wanting to take him down, things are about to get very messy and very bloody.
There is no other way to say it: Guns Akimbo is a wild ride. From early on in the film, director Jason Lei Howden keeps things interesting for his characters, and by proxy the audience. From the early moments of a brutal car battle to the way Miles works his way around the world using only his guns, this is a film that will keep you entertained even when veering into the absurd. Guns Akimbo is filled to the brim with stunts, excitement, and set-pieces, but somehow, even though all the mayhem, it never forgets the characters.
Guns Akimbo is perfectly cast all the way down the chain. Daniel Radcliffe as Miles, Ned Dennehy as Riktor, and every one of the supporting cast all adds to the puzzle that makes this film so fun to watch. And even with all that chemistry on screen, it can’t be overstated how well Samara Weaving takes to her role as Nix, the foul-mouthed, drug loving, stone-cold badass. Weaving steals the show whenever she is on screen. With this and Ready or Not, she has cemented herself as a versatile actress that can take on these roles and pull them off with flair and style.
As with any fish out of water action story, there are a few concepts here needed to make the proceedings work. With Miles being relatively useless, especially against the near-unstoppable Nix, concessions had to be made to ensure he makes it past the 20-minute mark in the movie. This is a hard feat to manage, and director Lei Howden does his best to make it seem as natural as possible—but it is something that is very obvious to anyone used to how action movies work.
That said, the directing and script work to make even these slight nit-picks seem negligible in comparison to the excitement on screen. From the way the concept is introduced to the way it is executed, this is a movie that feels tight and embraces the ridiculous. The camera angles always work to disorient the proceedings and the way characters lean into the insanity gives the film a style all its own. Many films will use tricks to mask bad writing, but this is not that sort of film. Even the most absurd set-piece works to build the characters and paint the insanity of the world they all live with a brush uniquely its own.
Skism may be a fictional concept, but it draws heavily from real-world social media. Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, all play a part to convey the message and concept Guns Akimbo is trying to arrive at. Yes, it is simplistic, and yes, we all know social media is a mask of reality, but when you crank that to 11 and add the right dose of humour, you have yourself a movie that is a blast to watch.
Guns Akimbo is a movie that is better experienced than discussed. It is a ride that will keep even the most seasoned action movie fan glued to the screen for the runtime. While it may not be deep, it is damn fun and well worth your time. Jason Lei Howden knocked it out of the park with this film, and I can’t wait until it hits theatres and more people have a chance to experience the mayhem firsthand.