Despite the promising premise, Daniel Radcliffe’s unimaginative new flick is gratingly frenetic yet relentlessly bland.
Ever since the Harry Potter franchise ended in 2011, Daniel Radcliffe has been taking on roles that couldn’t be further removed from his wand-waving days. From the gothic horror of The Woman In Black to the idiosyncratic batshitery of Swiss Army Man, the shadow of young HP has been well and truly left behind, and, from the premise alone, Guns Akimbo feels like a promising “out there” addition to his risk-taking catalogue of films. It sees Radcliffe play Miles, a gamer who finds himself designated a new player in a real-life kill-or-die game hosted by a dangerous gang, in which strangers fight to the death while others watch over the internet. Oh yeah, and he spends the entire movie with guns forcibly bolted to his hands.
Guns Akimbo’s enticingly bonkers premise promises an energetic fun-but-dumb The Running Man-meets-Hardcore Henry romp but ends up as gratingly frenetic yet relentlessly bland. It’s the kind of film that has convinced itself so fervently of how scuzzily deranged and hilarious it is that it becomes irritating in its unwillingness to confront reality: it is in fact a hyperactive child’s approximation of those things, and the joke gets old real fast. Radcliffe gives it socks but his efforts are undercut every step of the way by some of the most relentlessly annoying camerawork you’ll see all year, and a puerile video game execution which frequently apes (the far, far superior) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Even its sledgehammer-subtle attempts at a commentary on the ills of social media (and the hate-filled internet in general) fall flat, revealing Guns Akimbo as an unimaginative flick operating barely above the level of a full nappy.
Speaking of online hate, it’s usually a wise idea to attempt to isolate the film and the hard work that has gone into making it, and judge it dispassionately from any surrounding controversies. However, considering how Guns Akimbo thinks it has something to say about hate-filled online culture, its case isn’t helped by the real-life clusterfuck surrounding director Jason Lei Howden’s disturbing Twitter vomit aimed at “woke cyberbullies”. You can read up on it, but Howden essentially became the very cyberbully he was denouncing and seemed to condone racial slurs as long as they’re said in jest. The whole thing leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and it’s probably for the best that we give Radcliffe a quick clap (credit where credit’s due), spare a thought for Samara Weaving (last seen in the excellent Ready Or Not and who deserves so much better than this), and then move on from this blank-firing dud.
Guns Akimbo/ Directed by Jason Lei Howden (UK, New Zealand, 2019), with Daniel Radcliffe, Samara Weaving, Natasha Liu Bodizzo, Ned Dennehy. Starts July 02.