07th Sep2020

Rewind: ‘Guns Akimbo’ Review

by Jason Brigger

Stars: Samara Weaving, Daniel Radcliffe, Rhys Darby, Ned Dennehy, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Milo Cawthorne, Grant Bowler, Rhys Darby | Written and Directed by Jason Lei Howden

Guns Akimbo is a little-known 2019 New Zealand film which has recently been added to Amazon Prime in the United States. It’s a film that has flown under the radar, but after viewing, it’s a film that deserves to have a wider audience.

In an alternate future, but maybe not with how 2020 is going, an underground fight club, Skizm, is gaining popularity by live-streaming real death matches between criminals. The police and the government want to shut it down, but they cannot find the criminal mastermind, Riktor (Ned Dennehy), or Skizm’s deadliest and top competitor, Nix (Samara Weaving), to stop the popular enterprise.

Miles (Daniel Radcliffe), a computer programmer who was just dumped by his girlfriend, Nova (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), is thrown into the world of Skizm after he “trolls” the wrong person on the Skizm message board. After waking up from a hangover, Miles is shocked to see Riktor and his henchmen in his apartment, seeking revenge for Miles’ previous night of trolling. Instead of killing Miles, Riktor has a better idea: nailing a gun in each of Miles’ hands and forcing him to participate in Skizm.

Unfortunately for Miles, he was only wearing a pair of boxers, at t-shirt, and a robe when he was drugged and trying to dress himself with two guns bolted to his hands is unsuccessful, so Miles spends the first half of the film only partially dressed. It’s a funny visual prank and speaks to how out of place Miles is in this world. 

Clothing is the least of his problems as Miles is now hunted by a slew of oddball characters, including: Nix, as she is promised freedom from Skizm if she successfully kills Miles, the Skizm organization itself as Miles is becoming too popular with the worldwide audience, and even the police, after Miles accidently shoots an officer while asking for help. Miles also has to deal with attempting to get back together with his ex-girlfriend, while also protecting her from the sadistic Riktor.

Miles does seek assistance from old and new friends along the way, including his programing co-worker, Hadley (Milo Cawthorne), Detective Degraves (Grant Bowler) who has a history with Nix, and good Samaritan/homeless vagabond Glenjamin (Rhys Darby), who is nice enough to help dress and feed Miles. The supporting cast of characters help carry the film and does a tremendous job of providing more depth to this new, alternate future that the audience is basically thrown into without a parachute.

As the film progresses, Miles and Nix learn they are both destined to be killed by Skizm no matter if Nix is successful or not in her mission, so it makes sense for them to team up and take out Riktor and his enterprise. The team-up provides several fun and well-shot action scenes as well as provide good dialogue between our two main characters. Guns Akimbo is left open-ended and doesn’t answer all the questions the audience may be asking, but with a few surprises thrown in, it does have a satisfying ending.

The Good:

  • Daniel Radcliffe. Radcliffe is phenomenal in this role and fans that have not seen him in a more adult role are in for surprise. Radcliffe not only has the stereotypical physical features of a computer programmer; he also nails the sarcastic tone of a “keyboard warrior”. Radcliffe also shines by shifting his character’s mentality from being a pacifist to realizing sometimes you need to stop talking and resort to action. Overall, Radcliffe holds this goofy, over-the-top film together and anytime the film begins to go off the rails, he pulls it back with a more grounded approach.

The Bad:

  • Nix’s skill set. Nix is a fun, bad ass character that can accurately shoot and kill 30 criminals in a matter of minutes, but when she hunts Miles, she resorts to having the aim of a stormtrooper on the Death Star. I understand Nix killing Miles in the first minutes of being given her mission would make for a short film but at times, the audience is left wondering if the Nix hunting Miles is the same Nix we saw ten minutes earlier taking out a drug cartel by herself. It’s the only glaring problem in the film as there moments that she should have been able to shoot Miles successfully and for some unknown reason, just misses him. It’s frustrating and actually pulled me out of the film for a few minutes each time it happened.

The Middling:

  • More Questions than Answers. The film does a good job of putting the audience into the world of Skizm, but at the same time, the film seems to be the first of a trilogy we may never get. Riktor is a brilliant psychopathic character that runs the fight club, but we learn very little more about him. He obviously is only a clog in a massive corporate machine that created Skizm, as he notes Skizm is now franchised throughout the world, but we never get a clue on who is truly running the criminal enterprise. I don’t need all the answers, but a few clues into the bigger world of Skizm would have been appreciated.

Final Grade: B- (Good)

Guns Akimbo is a fresh take on the action genre while paying homage to the old-school 1980s action films and combining newer elements of more recent action films, The Raid and John Wick. Fans of Daniel Radcliffe are in for a surprise with this more mature, kick-ass character than they are used to, and one that makes me want to see more of this film universe. Despite a small but much-too-convenient backstory between Nix and Detective Degraves that slows down the pace in a few sections, the film is a fast-paced, never lets the audience catch its breath, violent, fun film that deserves to be seen by a wider audience.

You can catch Jason Brigger on the geek-centric podcast, The History of Bad Ideas, as new episodes are released every week at www.nerdly.co.uk or subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher and other podcasting apps. 
You can listen to their latest episode right here.

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