When I first learned that Panos Cosmatos, the artist who created Beyond the Black Rainbow, was making a revenge film starring Nicolas Cage, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. That feeling lasted all the way up to the start of the film … and then continued throughout the entire runtime. At no point did I have the faintest clue what would happen next during Cosmatos’s blood-soaked, revenge-fueled fever dream, Mandy.
While drawing on familiar revenge story beats, Mandy is anything but conventional. Cosmatos expertly establishes Cage’s character, Red, developing him during the opening credits without a word of dialogue. He then develops Red’s relationship with the titular Mandy, and slowly builds his bizarre world. One that is a genre mash-up of Hellraiser and Mad Max.
Granted, the opening act is excruciatingly slow and deliberate. Shots linger far longer than necessary, to the point of becoming unbearable. If I’m being completely honest, I was flat out bored during the first act, despite how beautiful and dream-like everything was. Nevertheless, Cosmatos eventually flips the switch, releasing Red’s inner beast from it’s, er, “Cage.”
And to his credit, Cage reacts to the loss of a loved one in the typical, manic fashion we would expect. Picture Keanu Reeves in John Wick, and then picture the exact opposite. Not to be outshone, however, Linus Roache (Chronicles of Riddick, Batman Begins) goes balls out as Jeremiah Sand, the eccentric leader of a hippie death cult. Roache is a commanding presence who nearly steals scenes from Cage.
The late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s music (Sicario, Arrival) ties the film together. The synth-metal score, combined with psychedelic cinematography plunges the audience eyes and ears first into Cosmatos’s unique world. Color-wise, Mandy looks like The Neon Demon on a combination of acid, cocaine, and the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders.
Cosmatos cements himself as an artist by creating a unique experience in a story that, despite a coke-snorting, porn-watching demon with a knife for a dick, manages to be relatable. In short, it’s a weird fucking world that seems tailor made for exploring the limits of humanity in a creative, eccentric environment. Throw in solid practical effects, a bitchin soundtrack, and gorgeous photography, and the word ‘masterpiece’ starts to enter the conversation.
But I’ve said far too much already, I’m afraid. Mandy features Cage cranked to 11, if you can imagine such a thing. (You can’t. Stop trying.) If that sounds enticing, you’ll love it. If it doesn’t, you’ll hate it. Either way, go in blind and come out on fire, covered in blood.
Mandy is in select theaters and available on VOD.
Nic Gets Uncaged To Avenge ‘Mandy’ [Review]
Literally inspiring awe, jaw fully agape throughout. This movie must be seen to be believed. And, even then, you may not believe what you see.