Jason Lei Howden’s Guns Akimbo was a last-minute addition to the Fantastic Fest roster. As soon as I heard the announcement, I changed my viewing selections so I could attend the first screening. Howden’s last film, Deathgasm, was one of the most fun times I had in a theater in 2015. Deathgasm’s mix of horror, humor, metal, and splatter ticked all the right boxes for me. 

Full disclosure—Guns Akimbo isn’t a horror movie outright, though it does have elements of one. Brains and blood flow freely, and occasional moments of body horror are present. Guns Akimbo is an all-out assault on the senses that will likely either win you over or turn you off within its first ten minutes. The film’s opening scene sets up the world with a balls-out action sequence featuring cinematography on par with that of Gaspar Noé’s Climax. Unlike Noé’s film, Guns Akimbo’s jaw-dropping opening sequence is punctuated to the rhythm of an adrenaline-spiked editing style, immediately throwing the viewer off balance.

Miles is on the run, trying to find a way out of his predicament

Two critical elements are introduced here. A large section of the public is obsessed with an underground game called Skism. Skism falls somewhere between Battle Royale and Big Brother. Criminals are challenged to death matches, with the action being live-streamed over the internet to bloodthirsty viewers. The second element is Skism’s top contender, a drug-fueled killer called Nix, played by Samara Weaving.

After Nix drops her opponents, the scene shifts to a completely different world. Daniel Radcliffe’s Miles is an office drone, barely skating by at his job. He spends his time off creeping on his ex’s Instagram and trolling people online. One night, after a number of beers, Miles trolls users on the Skism boards.

Before long, Miles catches the attention of the shady figures running the game, and they are not amused. They kidnap Miles, bolt a pair of guns to his hands, and task Nix with taking him out. Soon Miles is on the run, trying to find a way out of his predicament, and inadvertently causing collateral damage all along the way.

a dose of the old ultraviolence coupled with absurd situations and the same brand of laughs found in Deathgasm

Throughout the film, Howden stages the action set pieces just like a video game. If you weren’t on board with the similar structure of films like The Villainess and Hardcore Henry, Guns Akimbo may not be your taste. But if you’re down for a dose of the old ultraviolence coupled with absurd situations and the same brand of laughs found in Deathgasm, you are in for a treat.

Daniel Radcliffe and Deathgasm’s Milo Cawthorne both give it their all, but the true standout here is Samara Weaving. Let’s be clear—Weaving is having a year, and Guns Akimbo continues the streak. Her portrayal of Nix is as if her character in Ready or Not had an evil twin, complete with a major cocaine habit and a healthy dose of PTSD. She’s almost unrecognizable at first, but she plays the role with relish. Her performance alone is worth the price of admission, but there’s much more to enjoy here.

Guns Akimbo is an adrenaline-drenched ballet of bullets, bathed in colors that would make Dario Argento proud. It may not land with everyone, but the right audience will go wild for its caffeinated cartoon-colored John Woo stylings.

Guns Akimbo had its US Premiere at Fantastic Fest 2019 on Thursday, September 19th. It plays again on Wednesday, September 25th.