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Film Review: Mutafukaz @ London Film Festival 2017

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Based on a popular French comic of the same name, Mutafukaz is a violent, off-kilter, undeniably stylish animated movie held back by some noticeable storytelling flaws.

Mutafukaz 1

The movie takes place in the fictional Dark Meat City, or DMC, a dirty, sun-baked, crime-riddled s--thole. Protagonist Angelino can't hold a steady job and shares a crappy apartment with his friend Vinz, a skeleton whose skull is on fire. Angelino himself is small, lanky, onyx-colored and has a spherical head - he also likes to keep cockroaches as pets. 

Oh, and did I  mention this movie also has superpowered Mexican luchadores and an oversized gangster that only speaks in Shakespeare quotes?

Mutafukaz is very weird and the bizarre concepts work really well with the energetic, highly stylized animation style. This is particularly true in the awesome action scenes - the ice cream truck chase is all kinds of cool, jumping from up close and personal crazy to a Pacman-style grid view of the city. 

Angelino, Vinz and their other friend, the insufferable Willy, look nothing like the majority of the human characters in this movie, which seem to come straight out of an anime. While Angelino's distinct appearance is actually a plot point, why Vinz is a literal skeleton with a flaming skull is never even given lip service. It's the kind of movie where you're just expected to go along with weird stuff like that. Mutafukaz 2

If the title didn't give it away, Mutfukaz is not a kid's movie. It's pretty dark and violent even before the body horror twist of the second half kicks in. 

Speaking of which, Mutafukaz' biggest problems by far have to do with its pacing and storytelling. The plot keeps you in the dark for much of the first half - you know that some very bad people are after Angelino and that there's something about him that makes him unique, but details are scarce.

Then, all of a sudden, the second half drops a massive exposition dump packed with some pretty out-there sci-fi concepts. This goes on for a solid 10-15 minutes, maybe even longer and it basically feels as if the movie slams into a brick wall at full speed. 

It's jarring and alienating to have to suddenly process so much information. It's not so much that it's difficult to follow - it's just tedious and unwieldy, especially compared to the energetic pace of the first half. Mutafukaz 3

Mutafukaz creator-writer-illustrator Guillaume "Run" Renard (who also co-directed the film) has said that the movie adapts the entire narrative arc of the comics, which seems overly ambitious for a 90 minute feature. 

By the time I got to the bit where the Mexican luchadores and a bunch of renegede scientists were building a rocket to counteract the effects of alien-made global warming, I felt completely disconnected from what was going on.

It's a shame, because the art style and the animation itself are really cool and well done, and the movie is packed with fun, interesting characters and ideas.

Mutafukaz occupies a very particular niche and you should be able to tell right away if it's the kind of movie you'll enjoy or not. It's definitely worth seeing for its distinct style and wacky concepts - just be willing to cut the story a lot of slack. 

Mutafukaz screened as part of the 2017 BFI London Film Festival this October. Further details can be found here.

 

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