Sitges Review: Daniel Radcliffe in Action Comedy Film 'Guns Akimbo'
by Alex Billington
October 6, 2019
Just when you think, "they've done it all", someone will come up with some other crazy-as-shit idea and turn it into a movie. The next evolution in the wild action comedy subgenre is a movie titled Guns Akimbo, this time coming from New Zealand (though it was filmed partially in Germany in addition to New Zealand). Guns Akimbo is the second feature film from a New Zealand visual effects artist-turned-filmmaker named Jason Lei Howden, following up his debut film Deathgasm from 2015. The crazy-as-shit concept in this one involves a random guy waking up one day with guns bolted to both of his hands - he can't remove them or do anything because they're drilled right into his bones. But, why? What happens next? Will he survive? You'll find out in Guns Akimbo, which is as totally insane and as totally entertaining as that concept sounds.
Set in the near future, a new website has taken the world by storm. It's called Skizm - an underground group that live streams death matches that take place in the real world. It's pitched as real murder happening live, and of course people love it. Daniel Radcliffe plays a random nobody from the real world who loves to troll people online. Until he wakes up with guns bolted to his hands, and learns he's the next player selected to fight a badass warrior woman called Nix, played by the always-incredible Samara Weaving. There isn't much explanation or even a moment to ponder questions like "why doesn't he care about the pain of having bolts irresponsibly screwed into his hands?!" But we don't need much explanation - that's how these films work, they just toss us right into all the nonsense and we go along for an unrealistic but very enjoyable ride.
There are so many insane action comedies these days, it's pretty much a subgenre of its own now. Films like Crank, John Wick, Wanted, Scott Pilgrim, Hardcore Henry, and Upgrade have paved the way, now Guns Akimbo is the next step forward in this subgenre. There are multiple video game-esque touches (including some cool POV action scenes like Hardcore Henry) borrowing from classics like Death Race before it, but upgrading everything to give this a fresh coat of paint. Many directors try to make insane action comedies, but few have the chops to make them good, and even fewer can make something that actually takes a step forward. Most recently, Leigh Whannell pulled this off with Upgrade, and now Jason Lei Howden does this with Guns Akimbo. It's all out, totally insane, uber violent, wildly hilarious, unbelievable action movie fun.
Following the success of Crank in 2006, filmmakers Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor tried to make a real-world-video-game action movie titled Gamer. It was a disaster in every way. Guns Akimbo is everything that Gamer wanted to be, and should've been, but wasn't. It has constant blood pumpin' energy right from the start. Radcliffe in a hilariously bonkers role in yet another one of these "worst days of my life" movies, but he can do pretty much anything and makes it all believable (enough). It also has the video game concept built right into the storyline, which allows them to work video game ideas directly into the filmmaking (like Scott Pilgrim). It gets a bit too dumb at times, and slows down to take a breath right when things are getting good, but overall it's a blast. Guns Akimbo is best enjoyed with a big cinema crowd that's also really into it.
The film has an amazing full-on techno / house / trance DJ set for a score - one of my favorite parts about it. One of the best electronica scores I've ever heard in any film, felt like I was at a night club grooving to the beats while watching all this crazy action. The score is by German composer Enis Rotthoff. Right from the start there's a beat and it keeps the film on pace with head boppin' verve. I don't expect everyone to enjoy it, because it's a bit unconventional and almost too much for just a movie, but I loved it. Part of making a good action movie that actually evolves the genre is in putting together something where all of it is unique - not just the script, but the score and the action and the concept, too. Glad to say this one definitely rocks. Grab all your friends and take them to the cinema and enjoy this insanely-insane jolt of modern action goodness.
Alex's Sitges 2019 Rating: 8 out of 10
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