“Guns Akimbo” is a big, ballsy, blast of cartoonish violence that never pumps the brakes once it takes off.
It’s yet another feather in the cap for co-star Samara Weaving (“Ready or Not”), who is almost unrecognizable as Nix, a sociopath-by-proxy, forced to play a real-world version of Roger Corman’s “Death Race” in order to escape the nefarious crime lord Riktor (Ned Dennehy).
And it’s another plum role for Daniel Radcliffe, who has thankfully gravitated to edgier, more controversial content since leaving Hogwarts behind.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 95 minutes
Directed by Jason Lei Howden
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Samara Weaving, Rhys Darby, Ned Dennehy, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Mark Rowley
Now playing in select theaters and available to rent or own on most Video-on-Demand streaming platformsRadcliffe plays Miles, a video game developer and online troll, who can’t resist hurling insults on the dark web at fans of a radical new, ultra-violent form of entertainment called Skizm.
After a night of drunken tirades, Miles wakes up to find he’s been hacked by Riktor, the creator of Skizm, when the big bad and his motley crew arrive at his apartment, determined to turn him into a walking FPS (first-person shooter). Miles is whisked away to a dank operating room where guns are bolted to both his hands, and then returned home.
Before he knows it, Miles is thrust into Skizm and pitted against Nix, the reigning champion, who has killed every competitor she’s faced. If he can’t finish Nix off in 24 hours, Riktor will kill Miles’ ex-girlfriend just for fun.
For more than a decade, filmmakers have been trying, often in vain, to translate the experience of playing a video game into a feature film.
From the decent (2007’s “Shoot ‘Em Up”) to the untenable (2015’s “Hardcore Henry”), most efforts have failed to crack the complicated nut of what makes the gaming experience so addictive. Even the “John Wick” franchise, which feature ridiculous levels of gun violence, has wisely managed to keep to its own, singular lane, thus avoiding being labeled a video game movie, which can have lethal implications at the box office.
Thankfully, controversial writer-director Jason Lei Howden doesn’t try to avoid the video game comparison. If anything, he fully embraces it.
Howden, who burst onto the genre scene in 2015 with the wonderfully gory, black metal horror-comedy, “Deathgasm,” is clearly having a blast, and “Guns Akimbo” represents a huge step up, as far as execution and ambition.
Even better, Howden consistently packs his movie with wonderfully weird flourishes that make you sit up and say, what the fuck!?! And he’s found the perfect muse in Radcliffe, who seems completely game when it comes to the increasingly bizarre situations that Miles finds himself in.
Whether you’re watching Miles try to figure out how to pee without shooting his penis off or gagging as his new gun-hands fumble a discarded hot dog onto the ground next to a used condom and an empty baggy of cocaine residue, you’re never sure if “Guns Akimbo” is brilliant, or daft as hell, but you cannot take your eyes off the screen.
Ultimately, “Guns Akimbo,” to me, most resembles a live-action mixtape. Some tracks are killer, others aren’t, but you know that in just a few minutes a new song will start that you might enjoy more. Or, as is the case here, you’re just seconds from the next bonkers sequence where Nix and Miles blister dozens of bad guy bodies with an unlimited supply of bullets and wisecracks.
Sure, this may be cinematic junk food, but damn if it isn’t delicious.
John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at Blood Violence and Babes.com, on Facebook @BloodViolenceBabes or on Twitter @BVB_reviews.
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