Runtime: 2 hours 1 minute
Director: Panos Cosmatos
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, and Olwen Fouéré
Nicholas Cage has been the subject of much ridicule in the film-o-sphere over the past decade or so. While the eccentric actor has never shied away from his unique strangeness, evident in his early work such as Raising Arizona (1987) and Vampire’s Kiss (1988) , he has suffered from a bit of a dry spell in terms of having noteworthy starring vehicles. Not since 2013’s Joe has Cage been in anything of critical merit, so it comes to great refreshment that his newest crazy-bananas flick houses another essential Cage performance, with mind-melting visuals and artistic flare to boot.
Mandy comes from genre-filmmaker Panos Cosmatos and tells the story of Red Miller (Nicholas Cage) and his descent into madness after his wife, Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) is murdered by a religious cult led by Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache). If that wasn’t bad enough, Red must also battle a gang of psychotic demon bikers if he is to exact his revenge on the “crazy evil” that has devastated his peaceful life. That’s really all there is in terms of plot, but what more do you need in a movie this wild? Mandy oozes mystical, Metal iconography and psychedelic vibes; 2011’s Hobo With a Shotgun comes to mind when describing Mandy‘s stylistic temperament, but I would hesitate to call it a pure exploitation flick like the former. While Mandy‘s barebones plot is totally in the vain of the exploitation genre, the pervasively surreal, psychedelic imagery and Lovecraftian themes gives Mandy an almost Kubrickian quality.
Nicholas Cage has been the main talking point around Mandy, and having now seen the film, I can attest to the validity of all the buzz and may even consider this my favorite performance from him. However as I mentioned the film’s “Kubrickian quality” earlier, Cage does not actually become the focus of the film until almost an hour into the runtime; but that isn’t to say the film isn’t engaging in that hour prologue. Andrea Riseborough plays the titular character and is the narrative protagonist up until her death at the hands of the villainous religious cult. Her segment is just as trippy has the latter portion of the film, but while the second half leans more into action horror, the first half has these beautifully surreal sequences of color and music. The stark contrast between the serenity of the first half and the hyper-violence of the second effectively invigorates both. Linus Roache plays the charismatic cult leader Jeremiah Sand who incites the rage and violence in the film, and he does so with lots of ham, but boy is it fun to watch. I even felt that the film’s more provocative content come out of Roache’s all-in performance. After we’ve spent ample time with Mandy and Jeremiah, the film finally pivots to Cage’s character, where we are treated with one of the most explosive scenes of 2018, rivaling only Toni Collette’s Hereditary dinner monologue earlier in the summer.
I watched Mandy at a local theater with my girlfriend and after one of Cage’s manic episodes during the later half of the film, she leaned over and told me how much he was reminded her of his role in Ghost Rider (and its sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance). Instantly, I perked up and fantasized a world with a Nicholas Cage Ghost Rider movie as passionately acted, painstakingly curated, and fearlessly weird as Mandy. But the fact that in this world, such a film would never see the light of day. Even this film wouldn’t have even seen the light of day if it weren’t for the first ever fan-owned movie studio, Legion M, who produced it. It’s exciting to see that films like Mandy can still get made in a market comprised almost completely of artistically conventional content, even if it through novel avenues.
It goes without saying that Mandy will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s what makes its success all the more important. If you can weather the stretches of stillness and inaction and stomach the blood and gore, I highly encourage giving Mandy your two hours. And hell, maybe if enough people see it, that balls-to-the-wall Ghost Rider movie could one day become a possibility.
Horror Scale: 7.8/10
See it in select theaters or on digital platforms (Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play)