SHOULD I SEE IT?
Summoning the Nicolas Cage fan club. He is back in theaters. I repeat: Nic Cage is back in theaters -and he’s still playing crazy!
Mandy is a horror film/revenge tale full of blood packets, crazy music cues, and a supernatural tale of mayhem and murder in the Northern California woods. For many, this will be all they need.
Panos Cosmatos’ second feature is rich with style, atmosphere, and dazzling visuals - and did I mention Nicolas Cage goes crazy?!?!?!
So…like…everyone loves this movie it seems, but there isn’t much here, substance-wise, and it feels super, super long at 121 minutes.
Mandy is one of those movies that thinks it is way cooler than it actually is; a trait which will likely turn off a handful of interested viewers.
If you cannot enjoy a Nicolas Cage free-for-all, in terms of his acting persona nowadays, Mandy has nothing to offer you whatsoever.
A quiet, soft-spoken life in the Shadow Mountains, circa 1983, devolves into madness and brutality in Mandy, a feverish nightmare, masquerading as a film, featuring an unhinged and restraint-free Nicolas Cage. The now-ubiquitous actor portrays lumberjack Red Miller, a man grieving over the murder of his girlfriend, the “Mandy” of which the film is named (Andrea Riseborough).
The second feature from writer/director Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow), Mandy opens with a quote from Douglas Roberts, a convicted murderer executed via the death penalty in Texas in 2005. The quote: “When I die, bury me deep, lay two speakers at my feet, put some headphones on my head and rock and roll me when I’m dead,” turns out to be a fitting and apropos summary of what’s to come.
For a long time, Mandy is quiet and subdued, though admittedly, pretty downright creepy, including Mandy sharing the horrific story of being forced to bludgeon baby starlings with a crowbar when she was a child. Riseborough is almost unrecognizable, with long hair and a ghostly complexion.
Mandy’s life is forever changed with a casual stroll down a dirt road where a van passes by her slowly. Cosmatos introduces them with the title card “Children of the New Dawn.” Soon, members of this group begin finding ways of interacting with Mandy while she tends to a small general store near her home.
Led by the ravenous Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache, also unrecognizable), the group turn out to be a fanatical religious cult of human beings and beastly hybrids. They abduct Red and Mandy, drugging her, propositioning her, and ultimately killing her after she mocks Jeremiah’s advances.
Bound by barbed wire, Red is forced to watch the death of his girlfriend, unleashing fury and rage within him when, after a brief grieving period, he decides to decimate anyone and any thing affiliated with Mandy’s death.
Oh, let the games and Nic Cage begin.
At just over two hours, Mandy overstays its welcome a bit (okay, a lot…), but PEOPLE… if you love Nicolas Cage deploying every ounce of the acting technique he calls “Nouveau Shamanic,” then buckle up buttercup because Cage goes OFF in the second half of this film.
In recent years, Cage has taken literally every role offered to him to restore his personal wealth and pay off countless millions in tax debts. By the time 2018 comes to a close, Mandy is one of 16 films Cage will have starred or appeared in since 2016, with most going straight-to-VOD, a couple landing in theaters, and a few others, like Mandy, getting the dual treatment of a theatrical release and VOD premiere on the same day.
It is hard to imagine Cage having as much fun with any of those roles as he does here. Absent for a large stretch of time in the first half of the film, he roars back in a display of wanton brutality, hilarious line readings, and over-the-top theatrics. This fits perfectly with Cosmatos’ crazy vision, as his film is all over the map in style and presentation. A reliance on red images and hues, not only adds a devilish bend to the story, but also casts a sense of dread and fear over everyone and everything.
Mandy also provides us one of the last scores by the late Oscar-nominated composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, who crashes together a haunting, chilling, mournful score with stabs of violent, heavy metal-like flourishes in a truly disarming and unsettling work.
By the time a tiger makes an appearance, and we have a chainsaw swordfight (A CHAINSAW SWORDFIGHT?!?!), Mandy will have either made you a believer or, let’s be honest, you never even made it to this portion of the film.
Cosmatos has crafted a very unique horror experience, especially for those desperate to find something different and outside major studio offerings like The Nun, Slender Man and whatever else mediocrity passes for cutting edge horror nowadays.
Mandy is niche cinema, certainly not for everyone, and clearly one of the stranger films to arrive in 2018.
But here’s where it won me over: Even with its brutal, bloody, unrelenting madness. Cosmatos accepts Nicolas Cage for who he is, and doesn’t make him out to be a pariah for all his jarring idiosyncrasies and instinctual decisions he now makes as an actor.
We have seen movies that almost gleefully set Cage up to fail, with the actor seemingly bound to that paycheck and directors and producers knowing he is all too willing to do whatever is asked of him, no matter how absurd or mocking his performance may be.
It is just nice to see Cage appear to trust his director, the material, and have that reciprocated for once.
While Cosmatos’ indulgences drag things out and suffocate certain elements of the film from being as awesome and amazing as he thinks they are, Mandy is a bonkers, sinister, vendetta-driven Nicolas Cage spectacle that somehow, even with the buckets of blood spilled along the way, feels somehow like a movie we need right now.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouéré, Richard Brake, Bill Duke, Line Pillet, Hayley Saywell.
Director: Panos Cosmatos
Written by: Panos Cosmatos, Aaron Stewart-Ahn (screenplay); Panos Cosmatos (story)
Release Date: September 14, 2018