This review was written prior to the controversy surrounding Jason Lei Howden’s abhorrent and caustic behaviour on Twitter. We at The Curb do not condone his actions, but have chosen to keep this review active as many people worked hard to produce this film. In that regard, we honour their work with this review.
To help inform your decision in regards to whether you should see Guns Akimbo or not, we would like to direct you to the following articles:
There are two kinds of action movies, with the best feeling just like a shot of adrenaline in your arm. The more common film features an established action hero type who we know is able to face down just about anything in their path (think Stallone or Schwartzenegger). The other, and for my money, the more interesting type features a majorly flawed possible hero who has to find their way into that heroism, with many struggles along the way. Our latest example of that second type is prevalent in the upcoming release of Guns Akimbo.
Guns Akimbo features Daniel Radcliffe in another in the long list of off-kilter roles since making his name in the Harry Potter franchise. Here he plays Miles, your standard loser protagonist who would like nothing better than to “troll the trolls” after coming home from his terrible and stifling day job. Completely understandable given his life has gone completely downhill since the end of his relationship with Nova (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). After talking trash to the wrong person, Miles is attacked in his home, has guns bolted to his hands, and is forced to fight in a death match (streamed for the internet’s amusement) with Nix (Samara Weaving).
Now, I’m not going to lie to you. Guns Akimbo is not exactly breaking new ground, especially in the first act. Whether it be the video game-like action (there is a literal bullet counter on the screen) or the idea of performing dangerous feats for the internet’s approval, you’ve likely seen it before. Just in the last few years, films like Nerve and Hardcore Henry spring to mind covering similar ground. And while the introduction of Radcliffe with guns strapped to his hands offers some good bits of physical comedy, as Miles attempts to put on pants without discharging a stray bullet, it does begin to get a bit tedious.
But honestly, all of those qualms disappear once Samara Weaving appears on the screen. She seems to relish the insane zeal she gets to unleash in every scene, aided by the film’s most memorable lines and the biggest guns. At first glance, Nix seems to be a one-note (but what a note!) character. However, the script, penned by director Jason Lei Howden, offers ample twists and turns and at least some minor character growth for both Miles and Nix. Frankly, this is Guns Akimbo’s greatest strength, that of the build.
Almost any director can make an action film that starts out explosively, with an extended sequence. Now, it’s not as if Guns Akimbo is a character study, but it does take the time to set up relationships in order to help you care about Miles, and eventually Nix. These choices certainly have their ups and downs. As the beginning of the film is mostly Miles becoming accustomed to having guns bolted to his hands, trying not to die, it is not exactly your typical badass action film, in fact, it is more a comedy of errors. This also stretches Radcliffe as an actor, as he has no one to work off of as a scene partner. Again, there are ups and definite downs. But once Miles has someone to work either with or against, Radcliffe settles into the role and is clearly having a great time.
The action itself, much like the connection of our leads, builds in a satisfying way that will leave audiences cheering the loudest at the climax, which is a task many action films fail at. Unfortunately, the larger plot (such as it is) is intensely forgettable and the villains seem to be cribbed from 90’s action movies, and really awful 90’s action movies at that. There’s something about a world domination plot through these death matches, a kidnapping, and everyone is covered from head to toe in tattoos. Sadly, the lead villain, Riktor (Ned Dennehy) is neither funny enough nor actually frightening, so all those plot filler bits tend to fade into the background as just standard bad guy stuff. Additionally, there are some social message lines in the script that seem wildly forced and then dropped as if they knew it was just lip service.
But realistically, is anyone here for believable villains or a sharp script? Or are we in the theater to see guns bolted to our hero and have him shoot a bunch of bad guys? If you go in expecting the former, I expect you to be deeply disappointed. But if you would like to see some serious violence, explosions, and Samara Weaving steal a movie, boy are you in luck!
Guns Akimbo is a wild ride and well worth it for fans of the genre. It is not going to change the way you think about action movies, nor will it make you think too deeply about technology. But despite its many faults, I had an absolute blast and would happily watch it again and again.
Director: Jason Lei Howden
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Samara Weaving, Ned Dennehy
Writer: Jason Lei Howden