Directed by Panos Cosmatos.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Ned Dennehy, Linus Roache, Richard Brake and Bill Duke.
Mandy is set in the primal wilderness of 1983 where Red Miller, a broken and haunted man hunts an unhinged religious sect who slaughtered the love of his life.
Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy fulfills our loudest request of a Nicolas Cage feature: free the berserker (See: Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans, The Wicker Man, Vampire’s Kiss, etc). “The berserker,” of course, being Cage’s monster performance bravado built on deranged outbursts, violent mood swings, and masterful overacting. Case and point – Cage fighting a greased-up LSD biker demon with a sharpened dagger for a penis. Mandy, so enthusiastically, understands how to play into its man-possessed star’s core abilities. A tucked-away kidnapping story in God’s name that morphs into one man’s bloody road to vengeful retribution. Nothing we haven’t seen before, but Cage’s evolution ignites something deeper than YouTube-clip highlights – a meaty, sorrowful, damn-everyone-to-hell stunner.
Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) resides in Crystal Lake with his partner Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). One day, a cult dubbed “Children Of The New Dawn” rolls through town. Leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) demands to have Mandy for himself, so he summons his narcotics-possessed biker squad to aid in her capture (and Red’s torture). Mandy mocks the egotistical leader, which assures her death. A heartbroken, vodka-soaked Red sees only one path ahead of himself, littered with the corpses of those who stole his love. One chainsaw fight at a time.
Mandy is an orgy of “Jesus Freak” martyrdom, interplanetary tapestries draped across vibrant skies, firetruck-red rage saturation, and violence in the name of just that – repulsive, fuck-‘em-all hate. Cosmatos’ artistic exploration howls with Blood Moon ferocity as Cage’s mission to bury every last cultist consumes his being; the devil’s assassin in firebird hues. Equilibrium between Red’s life in the Shadow Mountains with Mandy and his quest for kidnapper eradication trends latter heavy, if only in terms of Cage’s combustion. Those watching for Hunter Cage must wait, because it’s Red’s calmness and bedroom gazes around Mandy that allow for wide-eyed, screaming-in-his-underwear, God-mode Red. Less energetic, but crucial.
Cosmatos – orchestrating on an admittedly high-functioning level of ethereal thriller psychedelics – sometimes struggles to justify 121 minutes of Mandy. Linus Roache’s Manson-from-space Jeremiah Sand fashions his Ziggy Stardust shoulder pads so well, but the lunatic’s spewed monologues are little more than recycled Jonestown rhetoric. Motivations of atonement, ascension, and religious collectivism are exquisitely generic. A pungent aroma of toxic transcendentalism forms the shape of Red’s villains, and his description nails exactly what they are: “crazy evil.” The road to Red’s destabilization is paved with stoner-talk and paranoia – but sometimes twists in circles that only delay Cage’s showstopper metamorphosis.
Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for – let’s talk Cage. More importantly, let’s talk about Cage’s most subtly ferocious, unsubtly maniacal role in years.
Red is a man who’s always in pain. Suffering. A substance abuser battling his demons at first, Mandy his source of comfort. Lumberjack Cage benefits from Jóhann Jóhannsson’s hard-rocking hymnal score and Benjamin Loeb’s cinematography as they convey more than dialogue ever can, but suppressed relationship notes are the actor’s doing. Then Mandy’s lit on fire in front of a barbed-wire-bound Red, and Cage’s fuse runs out. First chugging a bottle of bathroom-stashed liquor, bloodied, in his tighty-whities, expelling agonizing shrieks with that crazed face. Then comes ranty, rambling Cage who speaks with military buddy Caruthers (Bill Duke), teetering on the cusp of rampage mode. The coup de grâce? Red discovers a jar filled with tainted LSD that powers Jeremiah’s hellknights and BAM – eyeballs bulge, smiles beam, and Cage clocks a VIP ticket to Satan’s playground. We’re talking go-go-gore Cage slaying BDSM butchers studded in greasy spikes and loving every death. Not Mom And Dad unhinged, but this is good – leave the “Hokey Pokey” for less human characters.
It’s the minute details that define Cosmatos’ success (CHEDDAR GOBLIN!!). Tigers, blacksmithing, and full-frontal male nudity – oh my. Red’s custom-poured signature ax/poker/blade is a silver treasure saved for 1-million-to-one-odds reward crates in video games. Title cards shift from 80s rock band fonts to the thorniest, most indistinguishable Norwegian grindcore entanglements. Cartoon interludes mirror something out of Heavy Metal. An original composition by King Crimson welcomes us with a ripper-wild guitar solo. Richard Brake’s role as “The Chemist” punches hard, this toxic engineer with a golden Luger whose skeletal creepiness stares through the screen. Cosmatos’ lusty submergence of every scene in a candy-red glow sizzles sexier than Elizabeth Hurley as Lucifer in Bedazzled. Provocative cinematics jump from behind velvet museum ropes be them Red standing amidst flames inside a wooden church or interplanetary skyscapes brushed by Davinci. This is Crank meets Melancholia meets the Devil himself – with a hefty dosage of SuperCage.
Despite an introduction that noodles and prolongs itself with misty mountain enchantments, Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy is a guttural warcry dreamed up from 80s Black Sabbath aggression and fantastical van-door painted murals. Horns held as high as mighty weapons. Nicolas Cage’s performance that of a fangs-bared natural predator with absolutely nothing to lose. This is Cage unleashed, but more importantly a Cage with purpose, with insurmountable ache, and paired with a director who sees more in his lead actor than “memeable” notariety. Tension heated to a boil and then doubled in temperature until nothing remains. For those about to rock with this one, I salute you.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★★★ / Movie: ★★★★
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram (@DoNatoBomb).