Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving go loco in the aesthetically pleasing, no-holds-barred movie that warns about the dangers of the dark web. Guns Akimbo (2019) delivers it all – guns blazing, hot pursuits and Daniel Radcliffe attached to just another weird project.
Some time ago I joined a group of A24 fans on Facebook, where the vast majority of posts revolve around Robert Eggers and Ari Aster. However one person mentioned an A24 release which got lost in the crowd. That film is Guns Akimbo (2019).
The plot of Guns Akimbo (2019)
The protagonist of this story is Miles (Daniel Radcliffe), a rather stereotypical loser who makes money off coding silly mobile games. Life didn’t go the way he expected, and so Miles lets the steam off by engaging in web trolling, as well as clinging onto the only woman who embraced his weirdness in the past.
On a particularly boozy evening his hobby brings him to an app called Skizm – a gang-run competition where violent criminals kill each other in front of thousands of viewers online. In an unfortunate turn of events, Miles becomes the next contender – the least ‘equipped’ and facing the game’s ultimate champion, Nix (Samara Weaving).
The film is an absolutely bonkers descent into madness
The premise of ‘kill or be killed’ allows director Jason Lei Howden to focus solely on delivering the audiovisual extravaganza. Howden has a thing for lush, very vivid shots. Whether the characters appear in the Skizm gang’s den lit with arcade lights, or spray bullets out in the streets, the cinematography is deliberately enhanced with saturated colors.
Furthermore, Howden’s DP Stefan Ciupek experiments a lot with camera angles and movement. One particular highlight is a scene in which Miles wakes up after being abducted by the gang, with two guns nailed to his hands. Ciupek rotates the screen upside down to a dizzy effect – a perfect representation of how the character feels at that moment.
On top of that come the whimsical character designs helmed by Sarah Howden. Daniel Radcliffe wearing the bath robe is, hands down, the best of them all, however it’s the tiny touches – such as a gangster wearing horse mask for no reason – that make this variegated collection so terrific.
Samara Weaving and Daniel Radcliffe have outstanding chemistry in Guns Akimbo (2019)
Both leading actors constitute essential assets for Jason Lei Howden.
I really dig the transition of Daniel Radcliffe as an artist, although many see it as a desperate attempt at detaching himself from the Harry Potter franchise. Whatever the reason is, Radcliffe tackles bizarre roles in bizarre movies with grace and charm – even as a farting corpse in Swiss Army Man (2016).
Although Howden isn’t particularly interested in dramatic exposition, Radcliffe’s sympathetic appearance as Miles gives a relatable anchor to the film. A much needed one given how risky the whole endeavor is. As viewers we feel sorry for that guy, however Miles reveals claws. Precisely for that reason – him not being a pathetic lost cause – Guns Akimbo (2019) manages to keep its colorfulness. Because Miles remains the sanest one in the game, his counterpart Nix can be everything but.
Samara Weaving owns the roles of emancipated badass women, proven in the ingenious flick Mayhem (2017), as well as Babysitter (2017). Hidden under pierced face, bleached eyebrows and cyberpunk-style clothes, Weaving embraces the delirious menace her character is. In less skilled hands, Nix would end up cringeworthy because go the amalgamation of weird accessories and behaviors she showcases. Weaving’s fully commendable though – even when delivering most corny lines ever (“go take a shit, because there’s nothing worse than hitting a poop-filled corpse – it’s like hitting a turd pinata”).
Due to its borderline camp Guns Akimbo (2019) won’t play everyone’s tune. Some might find its violence too gratuitous, and the thin plot too… well, too thin. But as far as the mind-numbing, nevertheless extremely stylish and creative films go, Jason Lei Howden owns it.
Guns Akimbo (2019)
Hate Grade: 3/10
Director: Jason Lei Howden
Writer: Jason Lei Howden
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Samara Weaving, Ned Dennehy
Music: Enis Rotthoff
Cinematography: Stefan Ciupek