Review: Guns Akimbo (TIFF 2019)

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: Miles (Daniel Radcliffe), a nerdy videogame designer, gets his kicks trolling the fans of “Skizm”, an illegal death-match club live-streamed online. After antagonizing the wrong troll, he wakes up to find two pistols have been surgically fused to his hands, and he’s now not only a part of the game but is being pitted against the all-time champ, the trigger-happy Nix (Samara Weaving).

REVIEW: The Midnight Madness selection at this year’s edition of TIFF was surprisingly low-key, opting for more unconventional picks as opposed to the often balls-to-the-wall, star-packed entries of recent years. Thus, GUNS AKIMBO, which would have seemed a natural for this selection, wound up being part of the higher brow “Special Presentations” section, which is a prestigious slot but may have ultimately been to the film’s detriment as I think it went unseen by a lot of genre fans, who might have gotten more out of it than a normal TIFF audience. I think that’s why, as the fest draws to a close people aren’t really talking about it, as it got lost in the shuffle among higher-profile titles.

The thing is, GUNS AKIMBO isn’t original. Owing much to SCOTT PILGRIM and the (not bad) Emma Roberts vehicle NERVE, with a hefty dose of BATTLE ROYALE worked in, GUNS AKIMBO does, to a certain degree, seem recycled. However, the film also has the energy to burn courtesy of director Jason Lei Howden (DEATHGASM), and even if it’s unoriginal, it’s still pretty fun.

guns akimbo

Daniel Radcliffe makes an appealing lead, with this another in a series of unconventional choices he’s made post-HARRY POTTER, giving him a certain cachet as a guy who follows his own tastes rather than trying to jump on another franchise. He plays mild-mannered extremely well, and it’s fun to see nice old Harry Potter running around shooting guns that are fused to his hands, a striking image well-exploited by Howden.

Adopting a video-game shooter sensibility, the movie gives Miles a few live or die rules. One is that he can’t go to the cops, because if he does the main baddie, an anarchist named Riktor (MANDY’s Ned Dennehy), will kill his beloved ex-girlfriend. The other big rule is he’s only got fifty rounds of ammunition in each gun, no reloads. If you think this is plenty, well, you’ve never seen a John Woo movie, have you?

GUNS AKIMBO certainly has a decent amount of action, although it’s chaotic and hard to dicipher at times. Everything is ramped up so much that the rules of physics don’t apply, something that’s made clear right off the bat when Samara Weaving’s Nix blows away a car-full of baddies to a cover of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round”. It’s fun, but there are no stakes, with Nix and Miles both taking loads of bullet wounds over the ninety-minute running time, and only really suffering from the effects when convenient to the plot.

guns akimbo

While Radcliffe is fun, Weaving goes all-out in a gonzo performance, sporting shaved (or bleached) eyebrows and metal-capped teeth. Her Nix is initially a maniacal villain, constantly snorting cocaine off her pistols and sporting a body count in the hundreds, but eventually, the movie does attempt to make her more than just an obstacle for Miles to overcome. It’s another good final girl-style role for Weaving, not too different from READY OR NOT (once again, many shots of her covered in gore). If anyone comes up short, it’s Riktor and his cronies, none of whom seem like good adversaries for the Miles/Nix combo, although it makes up for these shortcomings with lots of carnage.

GUNS AKIMBO is probably best enjoyed by gamers, and a streaming release would probably make more sense for this than theatrical, as it’s a little too HARDCORE HENRY for the mainstream. Still, it’s a funny little genre mashup, and has enough gore and shoot-em-ups to please genre fans, provided they don’t mind some recycled bits and pieces.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.