Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter franchise) might be the last person you’d expect as the lead in the type of frenetic action movie usually frequented by the likes of Jason Statham (Crank 2) or Gerald Butler (Gamer), and you’d be right… and that’s exactly the point of Guns Akimbo.
Wedged in between those modern masterpieces of vulgar autuerism and the upcoming Free Guy (starring Ryan Reynolds in what looks to be his most gnostic role since The Nines) comes this little New Zealand action movie, written and directed by Jason Lei Howden (Deathgasm).
In direct contrast to Statham and Butler’s fitspo physiques, we have Radcliffe as the scrawny everyman, Miles. Less an action hero than a keyboard warrior fighting in the great troll wars on his laptop from the comfort of home, venting his frustrations from a shitty job in a shitty workplace in his emphatically un-tactical outfit of novelty slippers and dressing gown.
That is until one night he picks the wrong forum, and gets pulled into the very game, Skizm, that he’s railing against when the admins trace his trolling back to his nerd chic apartment.
Cue the comic action sequences as Miles – a realist character in a hyper-real setting – tries ineffectually to extricate himself from the position he’s unwittingly found himself him: two guns bolted to his hands and a slot in the latest Skizm deathmatch. Or as Guy Ritchie would say: proper fucked.
Enter his opponent, and reigning champion of Skizm, Nix – played by the almost unrecognisable Samara Weaving, with the intensity crank’d to 11. Nix is the hyper-realist character of the piece: a coke-snorting, Category 6 shitstorm who leaves behind a trail of corpses and carnage where ever she goes.
This role sees scream queen Weaving continuing her tour across the bloody, ultraviolent subgenres she started in 2017 with the rage virus film Mayhem (opposite The Walking Dead‘s Steven Yeun) and the satanic comedy horror movie The Babysitter, and more prominently, in last year’s hunt the rich masterpiece: Ready or Not.
In short, Samara Weaving looks great covered in the blood of her enemies. Will she be wearing Harry Potter’s skin by the end of the film? Especially when the only allies Radcliffe’s character can find are the manic pixie ex-girlfriend he still pines for and a crack-smoking houseless man, played by Rhys Darby (Flight of the Concords) in some scene-stealing cameos.
Unfortunately (for me, at least), that’s not the story Howden is telling here. Instead, he’s pitching Guns Akimbo as a critique of these kinds of macho action movies (but also can’t help celebrating the genre at the same time with this film’s very existence). He does this by occasionally switching gears and dropping the tempo to deliver some disturbingly realist scenes in between high octane action beats.
When Miles enters his shitty workplace in a bathrobe and pistols ensemble, seeking a way out of Skizm, the film plays it as the setup to an all-too-real mass shooting, just long enough for that to kick the audience in the nuts, before ramping back up into frenetic mode and delivering the gun kata equivalent to the office scene in Russian stylist Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted.
And as it concludes – with Miles having by now, of course, embraced his guns akimbo form and got his pew pew on – after his final battle against the Big Boss (the man behind Skizm) to save the manic pixie ex-girlfriend he’s holding hostage, Radcliffe delivers a closing monologue as warning message to anyone watching and wanting to play at home: films like these may be cathartic as fuck – and just what Miles himself would most likely watch after a shitty workday – but in reality it’s gonna leave you with PTSD and the girl you risked everything to save is definitely gonna loose your number and block you IRL.
Which is a big mood. Big enough to make this film worth watching, and sliding next to other interesting takes on this genre, like Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire.