TIFF Review: The dire ‘Guns Akimbo’ wastes Daniel Radcliffe

Courtesy of TIFF

Editor’s Note: Vanyaland’s Nick Johnston is north of the border all week long for the 2019 Toronto International Film Festivalclick here for our continued coverage from the fest and also check out our full TIFF archives of past coverage.

Ostensibly a film about the dangers of trolling — or is it white knighting? — online, Guns Akimbo, Jason Lei Howden’s disappointing follow-up to Deathgasm, has a couple of smart ideas baked into its premise. It’s about what happens when Miles (Daniel Radcliffe), a goofy troll with a shitty life and an ex-girlfriend (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) who is coming to resent him, decides to take out his aggression in the chat of a popular streaming website called Schism, where two fighters are forced to face each other in a death match for the entertainment of Real Doll-hugging nerds everywhere.

Miles is stunned when, the next morning, the site’s creators track him down and bolt fucking pistols to his hands, putting him in the center of the next day’s match. He’s going up against the psychotic Nix (Samara Weaving), a one-woman wrecking crew, and he’ll have to survive without the use of his hands — unless he wants to shoot somebody that is — and somehow elude the site’s ever-present drones. It’s if somebody decided that The Running Man wasn’t hip enough to appeal to today’s youths, and so they crammed the rip-off with as much modern lingo as one can pull from Urban Dictionary without going nuts, and boy, is this motherfucker exhausting. 

Howden really wants to say something here, but all of his observations about streaming culture, dark web malfeasance, and bloodsport as entertainment have been said better by smarter people. Radcliffe is occasionally fun, though he’s essentially taking Charlie Day’s scraps at this point, and it’s weirdly frustrating to see him be pigeon-holed into these shitty satirical roles that mock his solid charisma. Weaving, on the other hand, is given material so bad that it’s almost impossible not to grimace every time that she throws out a one-liner before blowing a dude away or insults the size of Radcliffe’s cock.

Deathgasm wasn’t a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, but there was a sense of real, unforced fun there, as Howden kept finding creative and shocking ways to make the splatter go on and on and on. It had what some might call the “Independent Spirit,” in a way, and Guns Akimbo sacrifices that for a generic slickness, shitty humor, and plenty of CGI blood splatter in lieu of his first film’s practical effects. Honestly, this movie really made me miss Neveldine/Taylor and their particular hyperactive sense of action and comedy, and watching this movie stand in the shadow of the Crank films only reinforces how weirdly special they were in at that point in mainstream genre history.