New Zealand filmmaker Jason Lei Howden (Deathgasm) stirred up quite the Internet shitstorm in the week leading up to the release of his second feature, Guns Akimbo. Howden took to Twitter to defend Much Ado About Cinema website editor-in-chief Dilara Elbir, who used a racial slur in a private group chat. Many of Much Ado’s writers quit, Much Ado was later shuttered and Elbir apparently attempted suicide in wake of the leak. Howden employed his personal Twitter as well as Guns Akimbo’s Twitter to attack two women of color (Valerie Complex and DarkSkyLady) amongst many others for their perceived involvement in Elbir’s anguish, which in turn left them being threatened with bodily harm by anonymous trolls. Not a great look. Many outlets have chosen to boycott Guns Akimbo as a result. I’m not here to judge Howden as a man – simply as an artist – and on that front in Guns Akimbo’s case, (I didn’t much care for Deathgasm) he’s a success.
Ironically, much of the Internet bullying Howden decried in actuality is also tackled in Guns Akimbo. This is the story of Miles (Daniel Radcliffe), video game programmer-by-day Internet troll-by-night. Miles was recently dumped by his girlfriend, Nova (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). He spends his evenings slamming beers and slamming boors on Skizm, an online snuff site in which two people (most of whom are criminals and misfits) fight to the death with a wide array of weapons. He talks smack to the page’s patrons and purveyors alike raising the ire of Riktor (Ned Dennehy of Peaky Blinders and Mandy). Riktor deploys a goon squad to Miles’ “fap cave.” They kidnap the bloke and bolt guns to either hand. Miles is an unwitting entrant in Skizm and must face off against reigning champ, Nix (Samara Weaving). Along the way Miles encounters homeless crackhead, Glenjamin (The Flight of the Conchords’ Rhys Darby), ‘80s tunes are given heavy work-ups, there’s a sick Cypress Hill needle drop (“When the Shit Goes Down”) and countless cats are capped.
Radcliffe is immensely likable in the flick and I actively rooted for his character. It’s hard not to pull for a dude who rocks Rambo: First Blood Part II and Commando posters on his living room walls. Howden takes full advantage of the film’s central conceit and much humor is derived from seeing a guy with guns bolted to his hands attempt to take a leak, put pants on, use a cell phone, turn a doorknob, drive, etc. As good as Radcliffe is (and he’s quite good), the picture ultimately belongs to Weaving. She’s proven time and again (Mayhem, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Babysitter, Ready or Not) just what a captivating screen presence she is. Without eyebrows this chick’s still appealing and she doubles down on the badass bonafides she displayed in Ready or Not here. I’ll eat my hat if Weaving’s not one of the biggest stars of the silver screen within the next five years.
Guns Akimbo certainly isn’t for all tastes – it’s lewd, crude and sports plenty of ‘tude – fans of flicks like Crank, Crank: High Voltage and Shoot ‘Em Up should dig it. We’re not at Hogwarts anymore.