Mutafukaz aka M*F*K*Z 2018
Every once in a while a movie catches my eye for whatever reason, either at a store or at the library. I don’t really know anything about it except for what it says on the back of the box. And every once in a while, I just happen to see those magic words “based on the comic” which is what happened with this movie. I have vague memories of seeing posters of this movie when it made the rounds last year, but for whatever reason I didn’t pay too much attention to it. And that’s despite the fact that it was distributed by GKIDS who have handled some of my favorite animated films that I’ve covered on this site. This is from a very popular French comic that was produced by a Japanese animation studio, released with an English dub (which was the version I watched), and takes place in a city with a primarily Hispanic population so it’s oddly multicultural. There are plenty of adult themes, violence, humor, and all sorts of different genres mashed up in a generally pleasing manner.
There’s so much oddities packed into this little film and yet nothing is ever treated like anything is out of place. The majority of the denizens of Dark Meat City look like regular people and yet the main character is a tiny guy with pitch black skin, a perfectly round head, and giant eyes. And his best friend/roommate Vinz has a skull for a head that’s constantly on fire. They also have a neurotic catlike friend named Willy with braces. Occasionally the movie comments on the absurdity with classic television style pop up text, as if it was going to commercial. The characters also comment on their own oddities on occasion, like when Angelino mentions that it’s difficult for Vinz to get a job because he’s a walking fire hazard.
There’s an interesting mix of genres throughout the film. It starts out as a fairly slice of life comedy with the absurd day to day nature of ‘Lino living in a pseudo Los Angeles filled with gang culture that he tries to keep his head down and avoid getting mixed up with anything. There are some truly absurd moments besides just the mere fact that his friend’s head is a flaming skull, but they also live in a run down apartment filled with cockroaches. But they aren’t just a pest, they’re treated like a pet and ‘Lino even feeds them, which comes into play later in the movie when the pet roaches swarm in order to find the missing Angelino. There are also plenty of action beats with several gun fights, a car chase involving an ice cream truck. And it’s all wrapped up in a sci-fi invasion of the body snatchers-esque story where the black, tentacle alien Macho race have disguised themselves as politicians and cops and live in a giant, black and white space station-looking building where they at one point brainwash ‘Lino after revealing that he’s half Macho himself.
Where it really works is the pseudo hero’s journey of Angelino. He starts out as just a typical poor kid trying to make rent in a hell hole apartment when he can’t hold a job more than three weeks. He ends up falling into this massive plot involving men in black (not those Men in Black), aliens, and Luchadors who also happen to be a part of an ancient guardian cult waiting to be of use. He discovers he has powers and through the events of the movie, also learns more about his fragmented memories of his childhood when he was abandoned by his mother who was killed by the same men in black and saved by his father in the shape of a badly injured dog. He spent most of his days keeping his head down and staying out of trouble, but by the end of the movie, risks his life in order to save one of his friends. But not only that, he also turns down this alien power and decides to live a relatively normal life.
While there is a whole lot going on, it helps that practically everything is handled with a tongue in cheek humor like the pop up titles when things get too serious. And the pure randomness of Luchadors who are these ancient guardians and their highly choreographed matches are actually just how they train for the day when they’re needed again. There’s also a random street gang member who happens to quote Shakespeare. And along with everything else, the art style is incredibly detailed where it helps to make this city come to life. It’s reminiscent of something said in the commentary of the Simpsons where they wanted Springfield to feel real by having the streets filled with trash instead of just having it be clean animation. Dark Meat City and every place that ‘Lino and Vinz go to is filled with trash and background details that help the movie come to life. There’s even a poster in their apartment for a Santo and Blue Demon movie. It’s a little off kilter and the plot threads don’t always make sense, but its held together by the humor and the characters to make it an enjoyable ride. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.