So, what is Guns Akimbo about?
Video games, bullying, internet culture, violence and more.
This movie makes a comment about today’s issues in a sarcastic and irreverent way that invites people to think about their own behavior on the internet. But, if misunderstood, the message of the movie might actually do more harm then good.
Let’s start by talking about the insane style of Guns Akimbo. The cinematography alone tells the story: muted and realistic colors at the beginning, crazy flashy neon lights all over the place for the rest of the movie.
While we watch Miles in his daily boring life, his world is normal and uneventful, except for his hobby of gaming and trolling. His home, his office, the streets and his appearance don’t have anything “special” to them.
The colorful cartoonish effects that appear when Miles is playing on his phone and the text appearing popping up when he is “hunting down trolls” are the only things that make the style of the movie less grounded in reality.
After the inciting incident, however, everything changes. Flashy colors, explosions, gunshots blood, crazy outfits and a dude with really bad tattoos.
This sudden shift transports us, the viewers into this dangerous game along with Miles. This flashy style goes hand in hand with the action and the fast pacing while providing a good contrast for the gritty and crude violence.
The cinematography of Guns Akimbo tells us that the movie is about the difference between video game violence and real violence. Miles is in a surreal situation (that’s what the bright lights and colorful settings tell us) but the violence is real (that’s what the copious amount of fake blood and CGI exploding heads tell us).
Nova “Have you learned nothing from video games? If you see enemies…”– Guns Akimbo
Miles: “…you jump on their heard and they give you coins?”
Nova: “No, it means that you’re going the right way!”
Guns Akimbo is also filled with little easter eggs for gamers (like Sonic’s golden rings popping out of Miles when a man bumps into him) and references to games:
But probably my favorite aspect of it is the fact that the whole plot and the characters themselves seem to be taken straight out of a video game:
- nerdy guy is forced to fight enemies in order to rescue a damsel in distress and becomes really good at killing
- he has a limited number of ammo (which is rare in action movies)
- his health can be restored through food or devices (old hot dog/inhaler)
- one character is a badass warrior who helps the protagonist
- the bad guys look like they could fit into a Mortal Kombat knockoff
Guns Akimbo about internet culture and bullying
Mile’s nightmarish adventure is the consequence of his online behavior. After messing with the wrong people on Skizm’s website, he is physically abused and forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of millions of sadistic viewers around the world.
After the head of Skizm is killed, Miles decides to track down the rest of the organization, but this time instead of a keyboard he’s going to use bullets.
The movie’s message about online bullying couldn’t be more clear, as a matter of fact, Daniel Radcliffe’s character has a whole rant about how horrible and sick people who enjoy this kind of entertainment are. Not to mention that the viewers are meant to be ridiculous and silly whenever they are on screen.
And now we get to the not-so-fun part.
If the movie existed in a vacuum I would be happy to say that this is an uplifting message that tells to anyone who has been bullied online “I understand how you feel and I’m by your side”, but that’s not the case.
Guns Akimbo’s release was threatened by a huge controversy surrounding its director Jason Lei Howden. Howden vas accused of harassing and bullying people in an attempt to defend a colleague who had also been a victim of online harassment herself. Many even decided to boycott Guns Akimbo altogether after Howden started targeting people who weren’t involved with the attacks on his colleague but simply commented on what was happening.
As much as I enjoyed the movie, the whole Twitter scandal is going to make it hard to watch a second time. I could use the old argument that “the art is separated from the artist”, but there’s a problem with that.
If you watch a film about a star-crossed love between two people with a big age difference and then find out that the director was involved in an embezzlement scandal, you can still think “Eh this has nothing to do with the story”.
But if you watch the same movie and then find out that Woody Allen was the one who wrote and directed, you’re probably going to think “This is not as innocent as I thought…”.
In my opinion, the same principle applies here. Watching a fictional superhero-like character like Miles go out and hunt down bad people can provide a sense of catharsis. But seeing someone in the real world try to imitate him is actually frightening.
Guns Akimbo drew some criticism for its use of violence and gore during action scenes. As I said before, I didn’t mind the fake blood and headshots.
The blood splattering and the bones snapping are clearly meant to remind the viewer of gory videogames like Doom.
But another aspect of the violence in this movie is the way it’s used to give the audience that “videogame-like” feeling but also bring them back to reality.
The best example of this is the scene that follows the death of the big boss of Skizm: Miles fantasizes about hugging and kissing his ex-girlfriend, but a smash cut reveals that he is actually on the ground, almost dead after losing too much blood.
The fight showed us a hero that keeps marching ever after being repeatedly shot as the song in the background screams “Never surrender!!!”, the aftermath brings us back to the sad reality.
“You see, in real life watching your ex pistol-whip some guy’s teeth out gives you PTSD, not a raging lady boner”– Miles in Guns Akimbo
And then there’s the matter of the theme aka the message that the film is trying to send.
The movie seems to say that watching people suffer for entertainment is wrong but at the same time… it DID just made a guy getting his ass kicked for an hour and a half the butt of the joke.
Is Guns Akimbo worth watching?
Yes… but also no.
Guns Akimbo can be a fun experience for people who aren’t too impressionable by violence and like videogames or superhero movies.
But it might also disgust the part of the audience that doesn’t like dick jokes or gore. Not to mention that the whole controversy doesn’t make the movie any easier to watch.
The only thing I can say is that Guns Akimbo is not for everybody.