The first official image of Daniel Radcliffe (The Woman in Black, Horns, the Harry Potter series) from the new action/comedy Guns Akimbo reveals another dark genre turn from the actor who continues to be fearless (and unabashedly weird) with his post-Potter roles. Working with writer/director Jason Lei Howden (Deathgasm), the new film looks to follow the tenets of the madcap gorefests that have long been popular in extreme New Zealand cinema, with the added bonus of some maniacal social commentary. We’ll know for sure in September, when the film premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival.

As the synopsis goes, Radcliffe plays Miles, a video game developer who is selected by a mysterious organization to participate in a live-streamed game that pits unwilling and sometimes handicapped contestants against each other, and then forces them to fight to the death. Proving to be an evasive contestant, Miles is initially able to elude the other contestants, until his girlfriend is kidnapped, and he’s left with no choice but to play the game and fight for her return.

 

Battle-to-the-death stories have become their own sub-genre over the years and have proven to be remarkable showcases for both inventive carnage and commentary. What we can parse from these early teases is that Guns Akimbo will likely follow suit and highlight the kind of social media and political trends that have become staples of these stories. While blood sports have played out many times before on screen, a sampling of titles from different decades illustrates how reflective the brutal ideas can be of their times, and how they can evolve. Consider the evolution of this sub-genre, from The Most Dangerous Game, big game hunters targeting man for sport; The Running Man, criminals being hunted for entertainment; Battle Royale, children fighting one another to appease a government and instill a false sense of order (also see The Hunger Games series); The Purge series and the ramifications of racial and socioeconomic divide; and even the recently shelved The Hunt, which suffered a unduly demise over misguided politics. The point is: pitting person against person provides a timeless conflict from which to launch a barbed story, in any era.

The premiere audience at TIFF might think that they know what to expect when the lights go down in the theater for the premiere, but then—did anyone ever expect to see multiple deaths by sex toys? If for no additional reason, watch Deathgasm for that, folks.

Guns Akimbo also stars Samara Weaving (The Babysitter, Mayhem, Ready or Not). An official release date has yet to be announced.

 

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