Based on the graphic novel by Guillaume “Run” Renard, who co-directed with Shojiro Nishimi, “MFKZ” is an angry, muddled animated feature set in a dystopic version of inner-city Los Angeles.
“MFKZ” features racial imagery that is unflattering at best and some viewers may find offensive. The fictionalized Los Angeles is called Dark Meat City; the Palm Hill district bills itself as “City of Bangers.” The endless violence includes gun fights, riots and drive-by shootings involving Latino and African American gang members and children.
Angelino (voice by Kenn Michael), who looks like a malign cross between Felix the Cat and an eight ball, and his friend Vinz (Vince Staples), who has a flaming skull for a head, find themselves fleeing both the police and the sinister Machos, metamorphic aliens linked to the dark matter in the universe. Although he’s unaware of it, Angelino is a human-Macho hybrid, which gives him enormous powers that everyone wants to control.
In an effort to distract the audience from the many gaps in the fragmentary plot, the filmmakers trot out an array of visual clichés: black and white sequences, slo-mo action, comic book pages, Lucha Libre matches, flashbacks, car crashes and extended chases. The backgrounds suggest smoggy postcards of derelict houses, graffiti-sprayed buildings, rusted autos and palm trees. “MFKZ” is obviously modeled on Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s “Akira” and Taiyô Matsumoto’s “Tekkonkinkreet,” but it lacks the gritty brilliance of the former and the underdog poignancy of the latter.
Rated: R, for bloody violence, language and some sexual content.
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Playing: 7 p.m. Thursday and Oct. 16, selected theaters; starts Friday, Frida Cinemas, Santa Ana