Mandy is hard to describe... it’s truly fascinating. It’s so off the walls bonkers that it’s almost too hard to follow, yet the film maintains a constant state of captivation. It’s a visual journey that is difficult to put into words, but is certainly a journey that’s unique and packs quite a punch.
The film is directed by Panos Cosmatos, a visionary director who has made one prior film that has expressed his weirdness in just as dramatic of a way. Split into three different kinds of genres placed behind corresponding titles, the director blends the three flawlessly. From extremely artistic direction that may throw some people off, to the psychological horror part of the middle, to the ultimate conclusion of the picture being the film we all want to see out of a Nicholas Cage feature: absolute insanity. There is so many great shots throughout that leave your mouth agape, but it’s the shots that leave you wondering what is going on in the story that make his direction even more powerful. It’s not all going to make sense from start to finish, but after the credits roll and there’s time to digest, it will slowly come together in one way or another. If anything, Mandy makes you want to see more from this writer/director.
Mandy can be viewed as a revenge plot intertwined with something slightly deeper, and much more unsettling. Between the start of the film, resembling that of The Shining mixed with a slightly similar tone to that of The Neon Demon, to the action packed last act, Mandy is a film that lingers on Nic Cage’s raw emotion and shows just how much love his character has towards Mandy when things go sour. It’s unlike anything you’ve seen before and certainly will aim to confuse, as well as force several viewers to turn away in disgust. But all in all, this film has a message. The message is still unclear, and it’s one to be solved and deciphered over numerous viewings, but as previously stated it’s a revenge plot through and through with a cult/demonic edge thrown in, becoming the sweet, sweet cherry on top.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Nic Cage heavily reiterates his aspect of insanity... but don’t worry, it’s in a really, really good way. His insanity in this film is well earned and really drives home the emotions the main character is suffering through. It’s the second film this year in which Cage has delivered a great performance that elevated the film to new heights. While none of the others can match the extreme nature of Cage’s acting qualities, Linus Roache comes pretty damn close as the all powerful cult leader. You can’t help but feel disgusted by Roache’s performance as well as his followers, for they all share a similar revolting behavior. The small scene including the stand out actor from Rob Zombie’s 31, Richard Blake, stands out for his uninterrupted discussions with himself (yet there is always someone in the room), even a discussion with his tiger in the film, is a memorable moment that in a way links some of the actions of the followers with the infamous cult leader himself. The characters revolve around Mandy and the things that happen to her within the runtime, yet the actress who plays Mandy isn’t all that memorable. I wish the literal title character was just as memorable as the cult leader, his followers, the tiger drug dealer, or even Nic Cage’s Red prior to revenge, but nada. Andrea Riseborough is present in the film yet she isn’t ever someone you root for or feel a terrible misfortune for, instead feeling those feelings for her significant other. She’s not a terrible character, although her actions and direction within her scenes are certainly questionable. This is particularly present in one scene featuring an unnecessarily long “laugh.” I hate to say it, but Mandy is basically just John Wick’s dog: a reason to hunt and unleash Red’s inner badass, but not something you can be overly attached to from the limited time you have with them on screen.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Throughout the film’s 2 hour runtime, I couldn’t help but adore the score from composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. Unfortunately, this film has one of the best scores that I’ve heard in such a long time that made even the weirdest and confusing scenes work. Why is this unfortunate? Well, the brilliant Jóhannsson is sadly not with us anymore. This makes the score even more packed with emotion, although his death didn’t lead to the score being created. His passing still makes it an even more powerful score, and it obviously helps that the film utilizes the score phenomenally, thanks to the prepossessing of styles from such films as The Evil Dead, The Exorcist, and most of all, Hellraiser. It’s a wonderful clash that didn’t appear to work well together, until they were finally sewn into one in a burst of flame.
To put it in the simplest terms, Mandy is gorgeous. From the neon lighting, to the over abundance of wonderfully filmed close up emotional shots, to the terrific final shot of the film that expands on the world that Cage’s Red lives in. The fire effects, the beautifully shot and crafted weapons, along with expansive sets were all eye opening. They reminded the viewer of the wonders of a film from the ‘80s while creating a unique modern tone on top of it all. The religious themes on top of everything else made an even bigger impact. More so than that of such a film as the religious based horror Red State from Kevin Smith (I just had to bring that into this conversation because it was lodged in my head). I can’t name a single set that is poorly crafted, even the little things like the bedroom where Red and Mandy sleep is mysterious and bewildering. There was no clear obvious set designs within, and the ones that went truly out there with the design really won me over. Namely, the church scene at the film’s conclusion had me verbally remarking on how amazing it all looked. It’s a truly incredible looking film that at first seems a little pretentious, only to settle into its own strange qualities and really go a different way than you would expect it to progress.
Impressive is not even close to how I feel about the final product that is Mandy. Why doesn’t this review explore more details? Why’s it so repetitive? Because there’s not a reason to ramble on and on about the small things that will bewilder and stun. Go out and see it. It’s a film that I promise you won’t forget and as a Nic Cage fan I was highly satisfied. While it will not make general audiences love the entire picture, there’s certainly moments that even haters of the full runtime can get behind and think “wow, I’m glad I saw that.” Or, at the very least you’ll fade to black having a single thought coursing through your mind: “What the F**k Did I Just Watch?!”