Released internationally as ‘Mutafukaz’, animated actioner MFKZ drops us onto the mean streets of dystopian Dead Meat City, where young protagonist Angelino (voiced by Kenn Michael) scrapes a living as a pizza delivery guy when he’s not watching wrestling in his run-down apartment with flaming skull-headed flatmate Vinz (Vince Staples).
Scooter-riding Angelino’s humdrum existence in gang-ridden DMC comes to a screeching halt when he takes his eye off the road to get a good look at the beautiful Luna (Dascha Polanco). The subsequent encounter with an oncoming van leaves him suffering from migraines and apparent hallucinations, with Angelino suddenly seeing wibbly alien shapes in the silhouettes of passers-by. Has our hero’s accident sent him round the bend?
Spoiler time – nope! Turns out Angelino’s traffic-induced trauma has opened his eyes to the aliens amongst us. He’s also attracted the unwelcome attention of the Men in Black – led by white-suited bad guy Bruce Macchabee (Danny Trejo) and his henchman Crocodile (Michael Chiklis). On the run with Vinz and their irritating cat pal Willy (Ray Chung), Angelino must find out what’s up before he gets rubbed out.
A collaboration between France’s Ankama Animation and Tokyo animation house Studio 4°C, MFKZ is co-directed by Shōjirō Nishimi, character designer on Tekkonkinkreet and one of the helmers of anthology film Batman: Gotham Knight, and Guillaume ‘Run’ Renard, whose comic book series it adapts. Also onboard is Shinji Kimura, who served as art director on Tekkonkinkreet, Steamboy and the 2012 Blue Exorcist movie.
Also of note is MFKZ’s all-star voice cast, which not only features The Shield’s Michael Chiklis, Orange is the New Black’s Dascha Polanco, rapper Vince Staples and Danny f’ing Trejo, but also Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Espositio, Mexican animator Jorge Gutierrez and the Wu Tang’s RZA, who pops up as a machine gun-toting, Shakespeare-spouting gangsta.
However, it’s the film’s aesthetic and animation that steal the show – an exhilarating mash-up of film noir, pulpy ‘50s sci-fi and GTA San Andreas-style gangland cool. A distilled vision of the dark side of Los Angeles, DMC and its suburbs look gorgeous in their sun-baked decrepitude, while Studio 4˚C’s action scenes are high-energy delights – especially an extended car chase that sees Angelino and Vinz fleeing from government goons in a stolen ice cream van. MFKZ’s killer looks are complemented by a hip hop and dubstep-infused soundtrack from The Toxic Avenger and Guillaume Houzé.
Less awesome are MFKZ’s plot and pacing. The storyline itself is standard hero’s journey fare with a straightforward message (love is good; hate not so much) and some on-the-nose satire. A predictable plot and lack of narrative depth mean that the movie starts to drag about two-thirds of the way in. And perhaps it’s the result of squeezing 600 pages of comics into a one-and-a-half hour runtime, but MFKZ is also somewhat unfocused – for example, there’s a whole subplot featuring lucha libre superheroes that doesn’t really go anywhere and feels like it was included just ‘cos it’s cool.
Which, admittedly, it is! From gorgeous graffiti-influenced graphics to badass gun battles, MFKZ runs on the rule of cool. It may not be as wild or satisfying a ride as fellow Studio 4˚C film Mind Game, but taken as a series of individual scenes MFKZ is enormously entertaining eye candy. It’s also likely to be in UK cinemas only fleetingly, so if you want to catch MFKZ on the big screen we recommend that you check out tomorrow’s screening.
Release: 11 October 2018
From: Manga Entertainment
Age Rating: 15