At a time when millions of people around the world are streaming e-sports content every day, it’s not hard to imagine a possible future with the blood-sport insanity of Jason Lei Howden’s Guns Akimbo.
Nerdy video game developer Miles (Daniel Radcliffe) is a little too fond of stirring things up on the internet with his antagonistic comments. One night, he makes the mistake of drunkenly dropping an inflammatory barb on a broadcast of Skizm, an illegal death-match fight club streamed live to the public. In response, Riktor (Ned Dennehy), the maniacal mastermind behind the channel, decides to force Miles’ hand (or hands, as it were) and have him join the “fun.” Miles wakes to find heavy pistols bolted into his bones and learns Nix (Samara Weaving), the trigger-happy star of Skizm, is his first opponent. To make matters worse, she is at his front door.
Echoing elements of Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs the World, the Purge franchise and video games like Smash TV and Mortal Kombat, Guns Akimbo is hilariously dark, viciously violent and chillingly prescient. Howden foretells of a future that may soon await us: drone-captured live feeds, UFC-like competitions pushed to an extreme and online streaming platforms used for gladiatorial entertainment all around the world.
Writer and director Howden has created an action film with a protagonist who really didn’t want to be an action hero. Miles is someone who hates violence and is anti-guns – just a regular guy – who is forced by the most bizarre of circumstances to learn to fight.
Daniel Radcliffe brings an everyman sensibility to the role of the IT specialist who gets in way over his head and that works most effectively. By contrast, Nix adopts a take no prisoners approach – shooting everything in sight. She is the ultimate kick-ass bad girl. I also had an affinity for Miles’ ex-girlfriend, Nova (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), who is drawn into the situation. I also liked Dennehy as the real villain of the piece, aided by a particularly effective make-up job.
In spite of Guns Akimbo’s innate stupidity, you find yourself invested in the outcome – a sure sign the movie is working. Quite frankly, it really surprised me. Incidentally, the title is drawn from the word akimbo; the skill of using two weapons – one in each hand – during combat.
An anarchic thrill ride, Guns Akimbo brings with it real attitude.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.