Slamdance 2023: Mad Cats

The first few minutes of Mad Cats screams torture cult. White-clad women stand watch on a picturesque hillside before we’re taken to a prison cell where one of the captives, who doesn’t know where he is or what the hell is going on, comes face-to-face with one of those women, an executioner.

Then, in sharp contrast, we meet Taka (Shô Mineo), a clumsy drunk struggling to make rent. He is provided with information on the whereabouts of his missing brother, an archeologist who disappeared after returning from his far-off fieldwork, and sets off to save him. He later partners with Takezo (Yuya Matsuura), a cat food connoisseur living on the street, and Ayane (actress is named Ayane as well), a young woman who does the heavy lifting for the team, including supplying guns and training the two amateurs.

Those creepy women on the hillside are actually cats out to get revenge on humanity… If this is where the film loses you, maybe find something else. Still with us? Good! Because it’s self-aware cringe and well-done action sequences from here, as we see how each “cat” the heroes fight has her own speciality weapon and we’re treated to the trio’s clever banter. 

Director Reiki Tsuno told us the vengeful cats offer a deeper meaning: “I had always wanted to make a movie about animals taking revenge on humans. I get angry and feel sad whenever I hear news about animals being put down due to the existence of inhumane pet stores and evil breeders. The numbers of them have been decreasing, but not zero yet,” Tsuno said. “This is a very shameful act of humanity. Nobody has a right to force animals to breed and then trash them only because of human ego.” 

While he could have made the film about mad dogs, snakes or hedgehogs, Tsuno said he chose cats since he’s a cat lover who has taken in his own abandoned felines. 

The animal rights aspects, aside from one clear example, seem lost amid the battle scenes. While it would have been nice to see those points made more clear, Tsuno told us he didn’t want to leave viewers depressed. “It’s also a tale of friendship. It’s also a tale of brothers. It’s also a tale of a cat and her owner. I put them all together in one movie and turned it into a comedy,” he said. “I didn’t want to express it in a depressing way, even though the theme is serious. I want to make movies that make you feel happy.”

The film features songs by Birthday Girl, a new artist for us, who is now on the reviewer’s Spotify. Overall, it’s a fun dose of comedy and action. The film feels like a wild dream. Keep in mind that there’s no need to question their practicality.

Mad Cats is presented in Japanese with English subtitles. It made its world premiere at the Treasure Mountain Inn Ballroom on Jan. 21 and will screen again at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Visit the Slamdance website for more details.

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Jaime Winston
Jaime Winston
Jaime is a contributing writer for Salt Lake magazine. Formerly, he served as our editorial intern, then as our assistant web editor, and, finally, as our web editor. While he covers many different topics, he is especially interested in nerdy entertainment, from FanX's artist alley to Sundance's Midnight screenings.

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