REVIEW: Guns Akimbo has purposeful but hilarious violence

Marcus Goh
Daniel Radcliffe as Miles in Guns Akimbo. (PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures)

Rating: M18
Length: 95 minutes
Director: Jason Lei Howden
Writer: Jason Lei Howden
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Samara Weaving, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Ned Dennehy, and Grant Bowler

If the M18 rating didn't clue you in, Guns Akimbo is the embodiment of violence. Every scene in the film is executed with as much violence as possible, with all the associated blood, gore and injuries that come along with such violence. The problem with excessive violence, however, is that it can come across as pretentious and gratuitous, since you can get so desensitised to it that the violence seems pat. However, Guns Akimbo manages to sidestep that common pitfall, giving us hilarious violence that actually serves a purpose.

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Samara Weaving as Nix in Guns Akimbo. (PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures)

The action comedy is set in a semi-dystopian future where bloody urban death matches are live streamed for entertainment. A meek programmer finds himself forced to compete when guns are bolted onto his hands and faces overwhelming odds. If he is to survive, he has to find allies and a different way of winning the match — or die trying.

Guns Akimbo is a refreshing change of pace from the usual action "comedies" that pepper the cinematic landscape by being not only hilariously violent, but also violently hilarious. The character-driven comedy is what elevates the humour in the show, and the element of violence means that there are no holds barred when it comes to jokes. There's no artificial sanitisation of the funnies to hit a certain rating, but neither do they resort to slapstick, lowbrow jokes for the comedy. It's a genuinely funny film, and part of what makes it funny is the violence.

Daniel Radcliffe as Miles in Guns Akimbo. (PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures)

That's because the violence serves a purpose and is depicted in a humorous, stylised fashion. That's important, because there's copious amounts of violence and characters get murdered and maimed in all sorts of ways. Unlike other ultra-violent films, the violence here is not uncalled for, as it serves to support the theme of the film.

Danielle Radcliffe does the whole helpless nerd stereotype well in his role as Miles, and showing us his range and depth by taking on this character. He delivers a believable performance, even if it does take on some notes of his other more ironic roles. Radcliffe definitely shows potential in comedy, because his reaction shots are what drives a large part of the humour in the film.

Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Nova in Guns Akimbo. (PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures)

His co-star, Samara Weaving, is fine as Nix, but the problem is more to do with the overused psycho chick stereotype that she has to play, rather than her actual performance. There's very little Weaving can do with such a cliched character, even though the story does add some layers of vulnerability to make her a character a little less one-dimensional.

For such an ultra-violent film, there is an incredibly bizarre amount of social commentary about society's addiction to violence and reality TV, with random characters suddenly becoming mouthpieces for rants that come out of the blue. The commentary comes across as preachy, yet it doesn't go far enough to make a solid point. You can't ignore it because it's not subtle, but neither does it really give you food for thought.

Daniel Radcliffe as Miles and Rhys Darby as Glenjamin in Guns Akimbo. (PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures)

Guns Akimbo is a genuine gem of a film that tickles without being patronising. With hilarious violence that permeates every scene, the film provides a sort of catharsis for those looking to unwind after a day. Don't bring too much popcorn into the cinema though, as you might find that the gore can dampen appetites a fair bit.

Score: 4/5

Release date:
Singapore – 19 March
Philippines – 4 March

Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter who writes for “Crimewatch”, as well as popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Code of Law”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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