One of the most distinct styles of art and filmmaking, the Japanese anime genre has stayed in so many people’s memories because of how open it is and how it can be molded into other movie genres. Anime has been the backbone of adventure stories, crime dramas, fantasy tales, dystopian science-fiction and whatever the hell My Hero Academia is. The beauty of anime is that it’s an effective template to build stories on, but just because someone has a lot of ideas to shove into one movie doesn’t mean anime has the structure to support it.
Case in point: MFKZ, a semi-promising series pilot on Toonami that is somehow being released as an incoherent and numbing feature film. A collaboration between French comic artist Guillaume Renard and Shôjirô Nishimi (Batman: Gotham Knight), MFKZ takes place in the Los Angeles-inspired Dark Meat City that’s crawling with gangsters, luchadores and cockroaches. Getting by in that urban nightmare is Angelino (Kenn Michael) living in a crummy apartment with his skull-headed buddy Vinz (Vince Staples) and hanging with their brace-faced cat person Willy (Dino Andrade). One day, Angelino sees a beautiful girl on the street and gets hit by a car, somehow causing him to start having weird dreams. He and his buddies are then being hunted by a mysterious gun slinger in a white suit (Danny Trejo) who supposedly killed Angelino’s mother when he was a baby. Suddenly Angelino starts to be able to fight off his attackers and can’t figure out why.
MFKZ, or Mutafukaz as it was originally titled, is a blender film. It mixes multiple genres under the guise and loose rules of anime combined with bits of an action movie, a gangster flick, an alien invasion story and a very loose arch of discovering one’s self. Unfortunately MFKZ turns out to be unfocused and borderline nonsensical, jumping between its multiple plot elements and characters on a whim. One minute Angelino and Vinz are running through the urban streets of Dark Meat City avoiding gun fire, the next there’s a group of lucha libre wrestlers discussing some form of destiny. There’s no explanation as to why Vinz has a flaming skull for a head given that the entire world is entirely human and the goal of the evil corporation is buried underneath tons of boring exposition. The pacing is stop-and-start and the plot so scattered that it constantly cuts off any momentum the movie builds. Between the shootouts, the fight scenes, the dream sequences and the doltish dialogue, the movie has everything in its arsenal to be an effective story but a cohesive narrative. There are some inspired moments of self-awareness peppered in (the movie even takes a break to ask what the hell is even going on with itself) and the animation has moments of fluidity, but the rest is reminiscent of The Nutshack.
The voice actors are given nothing to work with. Given that Michael and Staples are using high-pitched voices for their tiny characters, the movie seems geared toward teens and young adults that crave the ultraviolence seen in movies by Quentin Tarantino or Cowboy Bebop. Andrade’s performance as Willy is teeth-grindingly annoying and RZA shows up as an overweight gangster that constantly quotes Shakespeare and that’s about it.. At least Trejo and Giancarlo Espositio as the boss of the bad guys have voices so intimidating that it manages to rise above the material. Perhaps they would be better fit in a more well-thought out anime action movie.
MFKZ leaves so much to be desired and not enough of an impression to say anything about it. As bad as this movie is, it’s so bland and ugly to look at that there’s no reason to get mad at it. All it leaves is just disappointment in the fact that such a vibrant animation style can’t save a script so bereft of structure. Even Adult Swim would find MFKZ pure nonsense and they kept Tim and Eric employed for a decade.