Hi there, folks, it’s ya boy. I’m back after a week and, honestly, I feel bad. I told myself I’d post weekly, but I just had a rough time trying to piece together a post last week, so I needed some time to let some ideas mull over. I was tempted to do another Crisis on Infinite Earths post after the Arrowverse crossover ended, but I might hold off on making another big fanboy post about that for a while, just to let things sink in.
Instead, I wanted to talk about what I was aiming to write about last week, which is this animated sci-fi action movie on Netflix called MFKZ. It was originally an animated short called Operation: Blackhead, then a comic series that went by MFKZ, which all got made into this collaborative anime styled movie between a French production company and a Japanese animation studio. It’s directed by the same anime director that worked on Batman: Gotham Knights (which was anime-inspired, at least) and a French rapper.
Now, when you ask anybody about this movie, they’ll tell you one of two things. Either you’ll be told that the movie is a must-see for its visuals and animation style, which I agree with, or you’ll be told to not watch this movie because it’s an incoherent mess of a plot, and a ludicrous waste of time, which is, like, partially true. This movie is an aesthetically pleasing trip with sick visuals and an amazing soundtrack, with the occasionally jarring sequences that are definitely meant to act as a sort of vibe check for the viewers, as a sort of way for the movie to ask “Hey, are you still with us?”
So, if I were to provide a synopsis for MFKZ, I would describe it as sci-fi action/crime thriller about this cartoony kid, Angelino, and his equally cartoony flaming skull headed companion, Vinz, as they endure misadventures through the crime-infested corrupted Dark Meat City, which is this weird urban combination of Los Angeles and São Paulo. We see what it’s like for these two outcasts living in a city with issues like poverty, gang-related crime, and oppressive police forces, all through the perspective of an anxious and self-conscious kid. Looking at the world from this viewpoint makes the movie really enjoyable for the first half of the time, considering how refreshing this sort of environment is for an anime styled flick.
The characters are my one of my favorite bits about this movie, even though some people argue that the characters aren’t written well at all. You’ve got these three, the most goofy looking cartoons, reminding you to not take this movie so seriously, even though there are moments where the movie asks you to do so. With the orange cat named Willy, you’ve got the friend in the trio that is a literal vibe killer, banging on your front door shouting loud enough for your neighbors to hear. He’s the character that is kind of just…in the way of everything? Like, he’s the friend that’s just there, but you go to when you need a favor or something. His first appearance sums this up a lot. Aside from him, you’ve got Vinz, the flaming skull. He’s voiced by Vince Staples, so, cool tidbit there! He is Lino’s best friend (and arguably is in love with Lino, but that’s another conversation) and is sort of the ride-or-die that you grow to rely on. Vinz lives with Lino as they both struggle to make their roommate situation work, which is actually a funny scene with well written irony sprinkled there, but as plot progresses, Vinz sticks by Lino, regardless of what happens, and believe me, a LOT happens. He’s the MVP for sure.
Lino, the hero and prodigal messiah or whatever, is the guy just trying to live his life, and gets thrown into battle with sketchy suit thugs, local street gangs, and a conspiring government made up of aliens in disguise. He’s arguably a poorly written character, but I don’t necessarily agree with this, mainly because while others see his lack of interests and goals make him a bad character, his entire character is written around the fact that he doesn’t know what he wants. There’s this cute anime-looking scene where the trio is resting after a chase sequence with the suited thugs, and as they see shooting stars, Willy asks Lino what he’d wish for, and the guy says “I dunno…I just wanna be a somebody.”
And that’s sort of where Lino’s character is rooted in. He’s anxious because he’s lost his job, he’s on the run all of a sudden after a run-in with thugs in suits (which, after watching the scene during several rewatches, I’m convinced it all happened because Lino was genuinely paranoid and spooked the thugs), and he’s losing control over his life, control over these prophetic visions he gets (which leave him convinced he’s tripping, just like I did my first time watching) and over powers he starts to gain after each violent encounter (these moments are depicted with a shot of his heart bursting into flames in his chest and his eyes grow animal-like, which was actually a really cool detail for each action sequence). Lino is a mess from the start of the movie, because he and Vinz want to leave DMC, but they don’t. Lino says something along the lines of them having “No jobs, no money, no car, ain’t got a shadow of a prayer,” and it sort of sums up Lino’s anxieties. As the movie progresses, we see Lino exhibit these anxious tendencies, starting from an accident and him losing work to gaining these visions, trippin’ out, convincing himself that police and priests are monsters (more on that later), to taking charge in these encounters with thugs, cops, and other adversaries, and you can see the anxieties in those situations shift from him to Vinz, the only other person with him throughout all of this, and Lino ends up, as he so cleverly puts it in the sickest car chase ever, “fucking handling it”.
Okay, I mentioned the visual aesthetics of this movie, but what if I told you that there was LORE? Yes, we get a brief scene at the beginning of the movie that alludes to, like, “plot,” but then the first half really is just focusing on Lino and Vinz getting through everything. Towards the middle of the movie, the plot shoves lore at you by introducing the antagonist, which is a government suit who is actually the leader of an alien race called the Macho (which might be commentary on toxic masculinity, but that could be just me), and we also have the Luchador sequences, where they’re wrestlers, but are also, like, ancient guardians tasked with fighting against evil, but they are waiting on ANY evil to emerge? And they randomly team up with a scientist (who is visually very cartoony, which makes me wonder if using cartoon-looking people is an artistic choice or if there’s lore attached to that too) who defects from the Macho scientists or whatever, and there’s stuff there. Meanwhile, we learn the origin of Lino’s powers, stemming from being half Macho (it’s why he’s a black ball headed cartoon I think) and his mother died at the hands of some enforcer as she protected Lino and his father, who is Macho, but…takes the form of a dog with an eye hanging from his eye socket? So Lino MIGHT BE HALF DOG? ALL UNCLEAR.
See, this is the thing that people begin to complain about. The story makes no sense when you REALLY buckle down and try to digest the lore and plot that’s handed to you after a while, because a lot of it is just weird. Like, you can tell there were a lot of ideas and creative story elements at some point, but they really don’t mesh well after a while. Luckily, none of this is the movie’s strong suit.
The action is why we stay for this film, though, along with the music it’s accompanied by. This is what took me a while to really figure out. The movie is great for so many reasons, while also being stupid. Watching it is most definitely a trip as you start being spooked around the same moments Lino gets spooked with dark visions, trippy visuals, feeling a wave of mild hypnosis with a cleverly done black and white hypnotic sequence, but the real fun lies in the action. As I mentioned, Lino gradually becomes more and more capable with each action sequence, with the first stemming from true paranoia as he takes down threatening thugs stooge-styled to horror music, followed by a sick dubstep fight sequence with Nazi-looking SWAT police (which confuses me because the next action sequence has a normal looking police officer on the street, which might be the first time the local authorities got involved in the antics in the film), and then we get my favorite scene, the ICE CREAM CAR CHASE (the music makes the scene the best, with the synchronizing of the ice cream truck’s music with a sick beat), and, like, a few scenes shot to hip-hop and reggaeton, which ALL are great. Even the songs playing in these character’s downtime rules! It’s calming, it’s urban, it sort of brings the world to life a little more (excluding mythical wrestlers and alien goo monsters).
The soundtrack for the movie really proves to be the highlight of the movie, which really is only enhanced by the action sequences. That being said, the story might’ve been written AROUND those scenes, but I can live with that. Visually, the movie is great, and like I said, there are a lot of cool creative story elements thrown into MFKZ. I wish I could go on about the romantic subtext between Lino and Vinz, the Macho-alien being an analogy for toxic masculinity, and the subliminal details that all seem to allude to entirely different ideas that most viewers would ignore because of the mindfuck that the movie is, but as I went through my notes that I jotted down about the plot during my second viewing of the film, I realized how much of a mess those thoughts are, and as much as I tried to capture and articulate the ideas that MFKZ is trying to express, it’s just so hard to do. So we’ll just say that the movie is a fun time if you maybe, like, smoke a bowl, turn your brain off for an hour and a half, and enjoy the visual trip and sick music.
Anyway, stay tuned next week because I’m gonna go on about ANOTHER amazing animated property that utilizes music in a similarly sick fashion, but maybe better!