Mandy is available in theaters and VOD now from RLJE Films! Mandy is directed by visionary filmmaker Panos Cosmatos and stars Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouéré with Richard Brake and Bill Duke. Here is my review:
Pacific Northwest. 1983 AD. Outsiders Red Miller and Mandy Bloom lead a loving and peaceful existence. When their pine-scented haven is savagely destroyed by a cult led by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand, Red is catapulted into a phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance and laced with fire.
Nicolage Cage has become a genre-cinema wizard, with fans flocking to see ” just how crazy can Nic Cage get in yet another over-the-top B-movie”? When I saw the preview for Mandy and Nic Cage was forging an axe and battling some murder hippy in the woods via duelling chainsaws, I expected to have another typical crazy-Cage movie-going experience. I was so very wrong. Panos Cosmatos has created a grindhouse cinematic experience worthy of Academy Awards. Mandy has more in common with a 70’s rock album than it does with a movie and that’s why everything about this film is so bizarre and structurally off compared to the normal and soon to be obsolete theatrical affair. This is a movie that takes you to another world, that although similar in appearance, Mandy is a terrifying and thrilling experience drenched in vengeance and blood magic.
The first half of Mandy is what we would refer to as “the setup” – a precursor to the carnage that Cage’s character Red inflicts upon the failed cult of psychopaths that have taken his love from him. The story is relatively simple and very straightforward – a tale of revenge and sadness, but the execution is profound and exhilarating. Cosmatos opts for grim color filters, soaking his film in red to give it this decaying gorgeous look while also lingering on character’s faces for uncomfortably long moments to let the viewer experience their emotions with them no matter how uneasy you may feel. Whether it’s the villainous Jeremia Sand (Linus Roache) trying to sell his cult belief system to the kidnapped Mandy and his face starts to transmorph into hers while he preaches that the world and everything in it, is rightfully his for the taking — or Nic Cage’s Red crying as he chugs a bottle of vodka and screams agony in his bathroom after something horrifying happens to him… The audience is always there and forced to partake in the journey alongside these eclectic characters no matter what and no matter how strange. How about that Cheddar Goblin TV commercial Red watches too – WHAT THE FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF?. These little sprinkles of madness are just flavour bursts to keep you on your toes people.
Some viewers will likely be turned off by these kind of sequences and that will be a problem — because there are a lot of them. Even the most mundane of scenes blossom into a sort of acid trip, turning Mandy into an epic dream sequence of murder and rage. Cosmatos wrote the film while dealing with a lot of pent up anger of his own and grief over his lost loved ones, and you can really tell that the movie was created with every emotion presented in the most extreme manner. In the most basic of explanations, Mandy is arthouse cinema, but it is also the best kind of movie in this genre because it’s so entirely relatable and with a basic premise, it’s easy to understand the themes even as abstract as they can be in their execution.
You may ask yourself why the cultists are summoning a band of “demonic?” bikers to help their quest of kidnapping Mandy and you may again ask yourself if you’ve been tricked into watching a horror film as Red invades their compound and proceeds to snort a mountain of blow and take a taste of these evil bastards’ LSD while cutting them down one by one. It’s profoundly fucked up, scary and engaging as Hell. In the hands of anyone other than the visionary Cosmatos, Mandy would play out like a basic horror-revenge romp, but because Panos is such a wonderfully strange genius filmmaker, he manages to create something fuelled more by Dungeons and Dragons and classic album covers brought to life. The action is vicious, as Red will be caked in gore and cutting down his enemies with a magical axe that he forges himself for some reason and at one point a chainsaw battle too, because it just felt like the right thing to do in that moment.
The performances are stunning, with Cage delivering what I feel is a career-best and Linus Roache turning in an equally as effective and unhinged portrayal of a failed cult leader reduced to whacking off in front of prisoners and playing his own vinyl single to show how cool he is. Plus, Roache goes full frontal in what is no doubt one of the most uncomfortable and unsettling scenes of this nature since “the tuck” in Silence of The Lambs. Andrea Riseborough plays the titular Mandy and her haunting performance is what drives the core of the film, from her disturbing speech about how her friends smashed baby birds with a crowbar, to her hysterical laughter when faced with the threat of death to the cultists who have taken her – she is extremely captivating in every way. Why were her pupils different sizes? It doesn’t matter – just go with the flow people. Mandy is a work of art and subjectively if you find yourself focusing on every little strange moment in Mandy, you’ll lose the experience. I’m not saying shut your brain off and just enjoy the ride, but Mandy is unlike any other movie I’ve ever seen.
I experienced emotions and feelings that I have never touched upon before while watching a movie. I don’t know if it’s because the film was so unconventional or if it really is just that damn perfect, but I would bet that future filmmakers will be studying Mandy for decades to come because of how progressive it is in every way. There are few films where after finishing that I wanted to immediately watch them again – Kill Bill, Gangs of New York, Goodfellas, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Dark Knight – Mandy deserves to be acknowledged in that group of classics. Panos Cosmatos is officially one of my favourite directors and wouldn’t it be incredible if a movie like this were recognised at the Academy Awards? It won’t be – but it absolutely deserves praise in every single category – from the astounding film score by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson (who should win posthumously at the Oscars for this work) to the unhinged and raw acting performances by Cage and Roache to the writing, direction and everything else.
Yes, Mandy is truly that great – a genre film that breaks boundaries and explores new territory that mainstream cinema has yet to tackle. Buy a ticket to see Nic Cage go on a blood-soaked killspree and stay for the two-hour acid trip. I expected weird, but I was not prepared to have my mind challenged in this many ways. Not just the best film of 2018, but one of the best ever.
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