Guns Akimbo (R16, 97mins) Directed by Jason Lei Howden ★★★
Miles Lee Harris (Daniel Radcliffe) is having the worst day of his life.
Admittedly, the Nut Bust 2 game developer contributed to his plight, by goading the wrong people. Miles, you see, when not flicking through the same three apps every day, gets his jollies from trolling the trolls.
And there’s nowhere better to find the worst of humanity spewing forth their bile than the comments on underground fight club site Skizm. Billed as the “Starbucks of murder, the McDonalds of madness and the Burger King of badness”, it live-streams head-to-head clashes, where the winner leaves with their life.
But although it’s beloved by many of Miles’ fellow citizens and denizens of Shrapnel City, he thinks it threatens civilisation as we know it. Unfortunately, that’s criticism the creators don’t take too kindly too. Cue a less-than-friendly visit from Skizm boss Riktor (Ned Dennehy) and his boys, a little DIY-modification and surgery to Miles’ hands and an unsolicited (and forcible) invitation into the competition.
Now, he has just 24 hours to kill his opponent – the seasoned and slightly crazy Nix (Read or Not’s Samara Weaving) – unless, of course, she gets him first.
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After the fitfully hilarious metal horrors of Deathgasm, Kiwi visual-effects-specialist-turned-writer writer-director Jason Lei Howden’s return to the big screen is another gleefully over-the-top take on a well-worn genre.
Filled with visceral violence, copious car-nage and pitch black humour (much comedy is mined from Miles’ attempts to do seemingly simple tasks with his new enhancements), Guns Akimbo feels like the mutated offspring of The Running Man, Escape From New York and Edwards Scissorhands, with a side-order sensibility borrowed from Jason Statham’s Crank.
Howden puts his leading man through all manner of indignities, as Radcliffe’s Miles battles to stay alive on the still somewhat recognisable inner-city streets of Auckland. Fortunately, as demonstrated in the likes of Swiss Army Man and Horns, the former Harry Potter isn’t afraid to get down and dirty.
For Kiwi cinemagoers, there’s the added delight of spotting the likes of Rhys Darby, Josh Thompson, Grant Bowler and Thomas Sainsbury in minor roles, but fans of Australian star Weaving will be somewhat disappointed by her screentime and limited character.
Props are certainly due to Howden himself for his visual and aural flair (the eclectic soundtrack includes the fabulous use of Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round and Rick James’ Superfreak), but the premise’s initial promise eventually drains away as Guns Akimbo seemingly slavishly follows familiar beats towards a fairly predictable conclusion.
But while most assuredly not for the faint hearted (or easily offended), Guns Akimbo can’t be accused of not living up to its name.
After previews in select cinemas this weekend, Guns Akimbo opens nationwide on March 5.