Fantasia Film Festival 2023 Review: ‘Mad Cats’

Reiki Tsuno's action-comedy provides a few pretty good chuckles, but never takes full advantage of its zany premise.

by Nick Kush
Mad Cats

Editor’s note: A previous draft of this review for Mad Cats included the pun, “It’s not purrfect.” We apologize for even considering such a bad pun. We’ll do better in the future.


A movie about magical catnip that turns cats into violent, gun-toting human monsters? And it’s not the best movie ever? Mad Cats is the sort of low-budget film I gravitate to — one that makes up for its lack of studio-backed funding with endless amounts of creativity. The loveably goofy premise doesn’t hurt either. The fact that its contents never fully live up to that premise does, however.

Taka (Shô Mineo) is down on his luck, waking up in his disheveled trailer and immediately cracking open a beer. His archeologist brother Mune (So Yamanaka) disappeared a while back, and Taka’s been struggling to pick up the pieces ever since. Until one day, he receives a mysterious package that includes a cassette tape. On it, a voice clues Taka into his brother’s whereabouts with instructions to retrieve a wooden box, making sure to note that getting caught by the assailants he may run into (i.e. the cat monsters in human form) would almost certainly mean death.

Of course, that wooden box is full of the previously mentioned magical catnip, and after Taka retrieves it, the chase is on. With the frenzied felines on his tail, Taka teams up with a homeless man named Takezo (Yûya Matsuura) and a mysterious girl named Ayune (Ayune) to stay alive and free his brother from the dangerous crew of cats.

For as silly and manic as this setup may sound, Mad Cats is frustratingly rote. Putting the cat conceit aside (which, to be fair, isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do), the film essentially has the most standard of action movie structures, in which our hapless lead character and his ragtag crew must learn to work together, train, and dispatch of evil henchwomen one by one. And by “one by one”, I mean it: Mad Cats commits the annoying sin of the evil boss inexplicably sending their underlings one or two at a time so that the film can pad out action scenes and character growth moments. There’s an aching feeling that Mad Cats is not fully taking advantage of its creative concept with suitably creative execution.

Luckily, everyone involved is very game, including all of the actors playing humanoid cats. Each offers a wonderful physical performance full of funny cat mannerisms. Shô Mineo matches them with endearing inflatable, arm-flailing tube man energy as he bumbles through each nicely choreographed action scene.

There certainly are laughs here, and the film doesn’t even approach overstaying its welcome with its sub-90-minute runtime. But for a film about ancient Egyptian catnip, Mad Cats is oddly unremarkable.

Follow MovieBabble on Twitter @MovieBabble_ and follow Nick @nkush42.

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