REVIEW: Mandy

Ladies and gentlemen, Nicolas Cage has been let out of his cage indefinitely.

After a sadistic cult leader brings pain and anguish to his humdrum life, outsider, Red, embarks on a quest of bloody vengeance.

An avante garde revenge story in the vein of an Oldboy or Kill Bill, but completely of its own style and world-building, Mandy is the craziest, bloodiest and most obscure film of 2018 by far. A unique indie with the balls to let Nic Cage just do his thing for two hours against the backdrop of a hazy dream-state atmosphere, the best way to even come close to describing what the experience of watching Mandy is like is linking it to the feeling of getting super, super, super high. I’m not even joking; Mandy is its own brand of a bonkers acid trip.

Split rather noticeably into two halves with the first adhering to a more tragic and allusive romance tale and the second being a blood-thirsty, ultra violent crazy man revenge plot, Mandy is not a movie I would entirely recommend to everyone but is a film I would identify as perfect in its execution. An 80’s neon nightmare with flares of heavy metal music video vibes, filmmaker Panos Cosmatos delivers an overly-stylish cult film in the making that shines predominantly due to an unhinged and demented performance from Cage.

Now if you live on the internet, as we all do nowadays, Nic Cage has managed to build quite the reputation for himself in the last decade or so. Hollywood’s resident maniac yes man who appears in every pile of garbage to presumably pay off mountains of debt and as result releases fits of fanatical and inhuman rage and confusion on camera, Cage has easily earned quite the heightened status. So with a film like Mandy, its incredible to see how well Cage’s over-the-top acting methods can be channelled into something so suitable and well-adjusted for the performer. Mandy is almost completely tailor-made for an off-the-rails Cage performance and, my gosh, what a performance it is. Cage is outstanding in Mandy and gives one of the best performances I have seen all year. Just from his ticks and stares and body movements and jerks into sudden lunacy, Mandy just would not be the film it is without Cage, period. The bathroom scene in particular – now, that is incredible acting.

Mandy - Still 1
(DeFore 2018)

Working as what felt like a grindhouse exploit-type flick with allusions to Christianity, it was difficult to totally pinpoint what Mandy was really about. For the majority of the time, I was lost in this film, not totally concerned what it was trying to say or be, but still hooked in what was panning out on screen. For the most half, weird surrealist sh*t dilutes the thick waters of meaning in Mandy, but never are you focused on the ‘weird’ because Nic Cage usually has the ‘weird’ covered. However, beneath the surface, Mandy bubbles and froths with thoughts and concepts predominantly of religious value. Now in all honesty, I cannot say for sure what I think this film is about and I cannot confidently analyse this film through and through; although, what I can say is that I feel Mandy borrows from the Book of Revelations in the Bible quite thoroughly.

The almost literal inclusion of the Four Horsemen and the constant nods to judgement as a means of fair vengeance, bends Mandy into what can only be truly described as a doomsday story. The world may not be ending but the corruption of an angel like Mandy leads the protagonist of Red down his own private end of the world nightmare as the film bathes in a somewhat divine apocalypse. And at the heart of this hellish fantasy, the film’s villainous cult leader, Jeremiah, acts as if he, himself, is the modern incarnation of Jesus, with the character almost completely ushering in a Second Coming type event to wrap up this whole essence of an apocalyptic story focused on Christianity.

Again though, true art is open to a whole matter of contrasting interpretations. This was just mine. So if you have fortunately seen Mandy, I would genuinely like to know what you think Cosmatos was trying to translate through this Cage crazy extravaganza.

With that all explored though, lets get back down to brass tacks. Mandy is an ultra violent experience. Like this movie is full on to the point that at times people like Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth don’t even come close – guys, we’re talking about a film where Nic Cage and another bloke have a sword fight BUT with chainsaws! Like this sh*t is hectic and when the violence begins it never lets up. Mandy can be shocking and harrowing and although I have personally become desensitized to film violence (which is not a good thing…) I would not recommend this film to the faint of heart.

Also, atop of the incredible score from Jóhann Jóhannsson which grinds every sequence and gives a raw though surprisingly vibrant sound to the film’s sequences, the cinematography in Mandy is a whole other beast of its own making. Benjamin Loeb did an incredible job in capturing Cosmatos’ vision as each frame in this film could easily be a painting in an art gallery. It’s also extremely important to note how trippy the visuals in this film actually are. I am not even joking when I say watching Mandy is like being extremely high. The mashing of colours and the phasing of images all equal an either highly satisfying appearance or a similarly sickening appearance. An amazing sequence set during a character’s consumption of LSD, reveals a mind numbing, impeccable image of two faces lacing across one another… I mean, it sounds insane when I say it like that, but again, film is a visual medium and this sequence alone can only be truly explained through visuals. So, my advice, just watch it.

So before I wrap up, Andrea Riseborough and Linus Roache give such compelling performances that may not come close to the brilliance of Cage but rule in an extremely subtle manner. Mandy is not exactly a film you just watch because its available; Mandy is more a film you watch either to study or to obsess over with a crowd of cult fanatics who all want to see a Nic Cage freak out. I personally saw a 9 pm/ midnight screening for Mandy (to which I would recommend highly if you can find a screening) and wow, it was one of the best experiences I have had in a cinema for a while. A packed out cinema of people losing their marbles over Nic Cage going ape in the most batsh*t crazy film of 2018. And I live in Australia by the way, so imagine a rowdy Aussie audience just completely worshiping an American surrealist action horror flick whilst on the piss… yeah, pretty full on right?

Mandy is, in fact… LOST ART.

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