Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"The whole thing feels as if it's trying too hard to be edgy without having anything meaningful to say."

When cinema first discovered comics it seemed like a match made in Heaven. A rich supply of stories of just the right length with inbuilt sequel potential and established fan followings, not to mention strong visual design and extensive character development already in place. Over time, however, the cracks began to show.. Although there were a lot of stories out there, few really did anything different, and Hollywood's approach to introducing characters meant we were soon drowning in origin stories. MFKZ may be dressed up as something more daring, with its graffiti and its gangsters, its dystopic pop culture references and its Cthulloid monsters, but it's essentially more of the same. Ii's also remarkably conventional in its depiction of heroism and special destiny. If ordinary farm boys were a thing in the ghetto, its hero, Angelino, would be one of them.

Angelino is an anxious sort, perhaps self-conscious about the fact that he was drawn by a white man and looks ever so slightly like a racist caricature. He keeps his head down as he tries to make his way through life in Dark Meat City, living quietly in a squalid apartment with best friend Vinz, who has a flaming skull for a head, and trying to avoid clingy, cowardly would-be feline friend Willie. But when Angelino is caught up in a traffic accident, something changes. He starts to experience visions wherein ordinary people acquire the shadows of tentacled monstrosities, some changing form altogether. At the same time he realises he's being followed by mysterious men in black suits, and whatever it is that they want with him, it doesn't seem friendly.

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As well as being an origin story, following its young hero as he develops strange powers, discovers the secrets of his birth and destiny and so on, MFKZ suffers from being extremely episodic. Moments of peril are always short lived before we move onto the next adventure; revelations are supplied at regularly scheduled intervals. This robs the film of any lasting tension and interrupts the progress of character development, though there's not a lot of that in the first place. In terms of character based drama, the only relationship that carries any weight is that between the two best friends, which comes under pressure towards the end. The suspiciously glamorous young woman whom our hero inevitably falls for is pretty much the only female character in the film and is woefully underwritten. Elsewhere we meet whole gangs who seems to get by with gestalt personalities or reliance on stereotyping.

The animation by Shinji Kimura and Teiichi Takiguchi is impressive and very nicely put together but is let down by the gimmicky character of the comics it draws on, an effect enhanced by the occasional appearance of intertitles. The whole thing feels as if it's trying too hard to be edgy without having anything meaningful to say. Overall, the combination of creative visual work and precocious boundary pushing is most likely to appeal to early adolescents, but older audiences, whilst they might admire some things about the film, are liable to get bored quickly and would be best advised to access it on home entertainment and watch it in 15 minute bursts.

Reviewed on: 14 Dec 2018
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Following a traffic accident, a young man starts to experience disturbing visions and finds himself hunted by men in black.

Director: Shôjirô Nishimi, Guillaume Renard

Writer: Guillaume Renard

Starring: Kenn Michael, Gringe, Dascha Polanko, Dino Andrade, Michael Chiklis

Year: 2017

Runtime: 94 minutes

Country: France, Japan


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