Every now and then I find myself contemplating on the child actors of certain movies that shaped my childhood—where they are now, and where their acting careers have led them. There have been certain occasions when I realize that a child actor in one of my favorite childhood movies actually never stopped acting, and had made quite the career for themselves. I think it was in 2007 with the release of No Country For Old Men that I realized this was the same Josh Brolin that played Brand in the 1985 classic The Goonies! And what a career Brolin has had, especially in the last decade. But what about some of those child actors that seem to have quietly disappeared even after starring in some of the most iconic movies that shaped us? This is the question that led me to watch Guns Akimbo, starring Daniel Radcliffe.
I had not heard a thing about this movie before watching it, and don’t be surprised if this is the first time you’ve heard of this movie either. Guns Akimbo had a limited release in U.S. theaters back in February of this year, just before the Coronavirus outbreak (it likely was not playing in a theater near you anyway). You can rent the movie on most digital movie platforms which is how I was able to find it. I came across the movie while searching for cheap digital movie sales on iTunes (yes, I love digital movies, so sue me!), and the vibrant yellow and purple poster with Daniel Radcliffe in the middle holding up two guns immediately grabbed my attention. That’s when the previous question about child actors popped into my head, “Where have you been, Daniel Radcliffe? What have you been up to all these years?” I had to get to the bottom of this, even if it cost me $6.99 for a rental.
… And I totally regret my decision.
Guns Akimbo takes place in the near future as society has continued to plunge itself into the ever deepening hole of smartphone and social media addiction. Radcliffe plays a computer coder named Miles who works for a game app company designed to swindle its users out of more and more money through addictive play and in-game purchases (think Candycrush). Miles lives alone, has no friends, and spends his free time online stalking his ex-girlfriend while pining for the past. There is a monotony to his life that many of us are likely able to relate to: we wish for more of our life only to find ourselves spending hours and hours wasting time mindlessly scrolling through the Internet. And just like Miles’ own place of work, there are others organizations in the film that are ready to take advantage of our smartphone zombie-like, vegetative state specifically through an illegal underground game called Skizm.
Skizm has achieved worldwide popularity through live-streaming actual death matches of willing participants. The organization has become so popular and operates under such secrecy that the authorities are struggling to shut them down. This is when we find Miles alone in his apartment, on his computer, trolling the viewers and participants of Skizm in a very relatable “holier-than-thou” moment. But Miles can’t stay hidden behind his Internet anonymity for long as the Skizm game-makers notice his trolling comments and decide to bring the death match game to him. Within minutes Miles’ apartment is broken into by some goons that look like they stepped out of a Mad Max movie. Miles is drugged, passes out, and wakes up the next morning with guns bolted to his hands, and is forced to play in a Skizm death match against top player, Nix (played by actress Samara Weaving). Everything up to this point in the movie felt somewhat promising. It felt like there were some decent narratives and social commentary setup that could be explored in a crazy, fictional way. Social media and smartphone addiction, trolling behavior online, our desensitization of violence, monotony of life while not feeling motivated to make any real changes—this really could have been an interesting way to explore these questions and issues. Unfortunately, the movie fails in every aspect to address these commentaries, and even fails to be remotely entertaining. Once Skizm begins and Miles is trapped in the game, the movie takes the viewer on a bloody, violent, reckless mayhem journey through the city without revisiting any of the aforementioned commentaries. The violence is absolutely senseless, the plot is incoherent, and the acting is so poor that I really struggled to even finish the movie. My policy with any movie I watch is once I start it I have to finish it, no matter what. It’s been a long time since I was this tempted to turn a movie off and call it quits.
I was also really disappointed with Samara Weaving’s performance. She was genuinely great in the surprisingly good indie horror flick Ready or Not (2109), and I believe that she has the talent to be a very good actor, but maybe any actor would have struggled to be good in this movie and this screenplay. And what about Daniel Radcliffe? You might almost feel sorry for the guy after watching Guns Akimbo. No actor had a brighter spotlight in the early 2000’s than Daniel Radcliffe did in the Harry Potter series. I know he’s done a handful of movies in between this movie and the final Harry Potter movie, but after watching this film, I’m not at all inclined to search out any other Radcliffe-starred movies.
At this point you should not be surprised that my recommendation on this movie is 100% SKIP IT. Save your money and your time, and watch literally anything other than Guns Akimbo.
Recommendation: SKIP IT