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Review: Guns Akimbo (2020)

Guns Akimbo (2020)

Directed by: Jason Lei Howden

Premise: In the near future, one of the most popular forms of entertainment is a live streamed show in which contestants murder each other. A social media manager (Daniel Radcliffe) is unwittingly forced into the game and firearms are surgically attached to his hands. 

What Works: Guns Akimbo is a violent, off-the-wall action picture that is made with a great deal of energy and humor. This is a crude film and it shares the sensibility of 2006’s Crank and its sequel. Guns Akimbo is frequently outrageous but it’s led by an accessible performance from Daniel Radcliffe. His character is an everyman who is thrust into an extraordinary situation when he is forced to participate in a life and death struggle for other people’s entertainment. Radcliffe plays to the absurdity of the premise and he is very funny but he also grounds the film enough to make the story accessible. To say Guns Akimbo is over the top doesn’t quite capture just how excessive the movie is but what’s especially impressive is how the filmmakers maintain the energy. Movies like this often dial everything up to eleven right away and the films usually run out of steam halfway through. Guns Akimbo maintains its absurd energy all the way to the end and that’s due to Radcliffe’s performance as well as the skillful management of the tone and the pacing. Guns Akimbo has a sense of humor about what it is and what it’s doing. The humor is an effective counterpoint to the violence and the contrast between the comedy and the gore heightens the impact of both. The humor also helps to gloss over the film’s logical and substantive shortcomings.

What Doesn’t: Guns Akimbo is comparable to a number of films like Gamer and Nerve as well as Natural Born Killers and The Running Man. Those films spun stories that were critical of media and culture and questioned the way our entertainment reflects and shapes our values. Guns Akimbo hints at a similar agenda but the film never really commits to anything. The voiceover expresses some vague ideas about the difference between prurient entertainment and the traumatic realities of violence but the film as a whole doesn’t really have anything to say about that. The world building of Guns Akimbo doesn’t quite make sense. In this game, gun toting contestants tear through the city streets shooting everything in sight. That makes sense in a dystopian future but the rest of the world of Guns Akimbo appears relatively normal. That disconnect raises a lot of practical questions that the filmmakers don’t ever consider.

DVD extras: Commentary track and featurettes.

Bottom Line: Guns Akimbo is a bonkers action comedy. The film is light on both logic and substance but it succeeds because it is such a fun mix of shoot-’em-up action and outrageous comedy. This film is a promising sophomore feature from Jason Lei Howden.

Episode: #813 (August 16, 2020)