Movie Review: "Mandy" (2018)
Holy fucking shit.
I’ve never started a review with that particular phrasing before, but I’ve never seen anything like Mandy before. I’ve never seen anything quite so dedicated to its vision and all the facets that it encompasses. Allow me to elaborate.
Red Miller (Nicolas Cage; Face Off, Gone in 60 Seconds, Raising Arizona, et al) is a lumberjack living peacefully in the wilds of the Shadow Mountains with his artist lover, Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough; Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). After spotting Mandy walking along the side of the road, cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache, History Channel’s Vikings) decides he must have her. He summons a pack of demonic bikers to kidnap her so he and his “Children of the New Dawn” can have their way with her, ultimately dispatching her in gut-wrenching fashion in front of Red. What follows is an orgy of violent revenge, drug use, and human anguish that you won’t be prepared for.
I say again: HOLY FUCKING SHIT. The trailer told me it was going to be balls out, batshit crazy, but…I wasn’t properly prepared. Director Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) has been described as visionary, but that’s like calling a tiger a fucking house cat. While so much of filmmaking is a collaborative effort, the writer/director is the one who lays the tracks for how the vision looks and where it goes.
And oh brother, does this vision go in some wild directions. I’ve done a fair amount of psychedelic drugs in my time, and I both desperately want to watch this on some good Liquid Jesus and wouldn’t dare do it (said in the same breath). The color palette alone is a character. The cinematography alternates between 16mm level grain and high-def nasty.
The score is another living, breathing creature that punctuates every seen. Auditory tics, jarring noise, crescendos of audible terror, and heavy flavor accentuate the 15 different styles of crazy on visual display. Mandy takes turns being near-poetic and then brutally damn ugly. Talk about a hard line to walk with finesse.
Then there’s Nicolas Cage. The man has literally jumped to “National Treasure status” for me with one film (see what I did there?)
He’s a lunatic powerhouse of silly proportions. He operates at ludicrous speed here, but stops to give you raw, ugly-cry, genuine human emotion. There’s a scene in his bathroom (which, for the record, looks like it once belonged to Stanley Kubrick) where he comes unglued and downs a bottle of vodka after losing Mandy. It’s heartbreaking. I don’t say that with a hint of sarcasm. He’s laid as bare as you could possibly be, mourning the loss of his life’s love in his underwear. He screams…he cries…he binge drinks. It’s hypnotic.
Then the vengeance starts, and you realize that Mandy is a tale told in two parts. The first half of the movie is slow-burn, art house fare; visually stunning and emotionally rich. It’s an acid trip committed to film and runs just a tad (forgivably) long. When it’s time for revenge, Nicolas Cage becomes something that would make even Bruce Campbell stand back and say “Just get the fuck out of his way! He’s got work to do!”
Mandy is a love story. Mandy is an unapologetic, kiss my ass horror movie. Mandy is a drug movie in the best sense of the word. Mandy is an art house flick that deserves a geeky and respectful clap. Nicolas Cage won’t get an Oscar, but he damn well deserves it. There’s not a soul on Earth that could have played this part except for him.
There’s a strong underlying message about religion and the dangers of fanatacism, but it’s the polar opposite of heavy-handed in delivery. Ultimately, you’ll take whatever “moral of the story” you want. I just know that if someone did that to my wife in front of me, I’d unleash the kind of hell that Red unleashes…and then some. Make no mistake about it- Mandy is a trip into Hell followed by the climb back out.
I’m done talking. Just watch it, already.