Director: Panos Cosmatos
Cinematography: Benjamin Loeb
Writers: Panos Cosmatos, Aaron Stewart-Ahn
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache
Where to begin with Panos Cosmatos satanic, revenge busting, batshit crazy, Nic Cage induced seizure that is ‘Mandy.’ Mandy exists in its own orbit, fueled by the jarring sound of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score, and the ultraviolet universe that Cosmatos crafted. It’s a trip and put Nic Cage’s psychotic acting style to good use.
Mandy is made with its head on fire, bathed in the luscious sound of heavy metal music that bears down on you like the enemies in this film. It’s one of the most metal movies ever made. It’s got a strict emphasis on metal and bleeds into every aspect of the film making it this gorgeously stylized, heavy-metal experience. And that brings me into my first point….
See this film in a theater with the loudest speakers imaginable. Prepare for the heavy sounds of this film to kick your ass. In terms of sound design, Mandy brings it full force. It’s not only the incredible timing of the music but the sheer effects and editing on the general sounds that give this film such a boost. Alongside the bright red visuals, the sounds transport the audience to another dimension.
It’s an absolutely brilliant mix of sounds. From the Mandy theme at the start that brings a sense of a strange joy to the blistering noise of the guitar strumming with the four bikers covers the entire spectrum. The sound itself is so impactful especially in a film where the dialogue is extremely scarce. Mandy was never supposed to be complex or explorative in character or narrative, but a journey straight to hell brought alive.
Only a few films a year dare to attempt a purely visual experience and Mandy brings that together. Of all the films in 2018, nothing comes close to how unique this world is built. The structure of this world and the stylized nature of the story is such a rarity. It also gives us a taste of Nic Cage at his absolute best.
Nic Cage is batshit
For as straightforward the story actually is in this case, Nic Cage’s expressions and general weirdness elevates the hell out of it. Even when the film breaks off into the revenge story of death and destruction, Cage elevates the rather bland fighting scenes. And of course, it all culminates into one bathroom scene that will go on the reel of Cage’s most famous scenes. It’s an unbelievable moment that I will remember forever.
However, the real show stealer was Andrea Riseborough (Mandy Bloom) and Linus Roache (Jeremiah Sand). “The special ones” and the two characters in the film that felt a tiny bit fleshed out. Riseborough was sensational and took the attention of every scene. Even with her quiet demeanor, the way she’s able to manipulate the screen with her eyes alone is astonishing. Her character makes sudden changes that are terrifying.
Otherwise, Linus Roache brought it with the strongest performance in the film. His intensity stood out followed by his lack of conviction. The moment Mandy meets Jeremiah is the most oddly satisfying scene in the entire film that’s filled with similar moments. As Jeremiah plays his uppity song on the record player and bares all to a room of people tripping on a demonic form of LSD, we truly see his character. As Mandy laughs in his face, we understand him.
The first act of the film is getting to know Mandy, the second act is learning about Jeremiah, and the third is Red Miller getting pure, unadulterated retribution. It’s an interesting structured story where the central focus seems to shift at random.
Lastly, the actual writing of the film. While I do love the aesthetic and the score, the actual dialogue in the film is bad. Fortunately, the bland plot is hidden within layers and layers of visual goodness and Nic Cage yelling. It’s easy to ignore a boring plot when each scene brings something gruesome and unseen into the picture.
It does turn into an action film at points and that’s when the story started to lose me. The fighting is clever and brutal but endless amounts of fighting can get quite boring. Even the chainsaw fight loses some of its punch because the last 20-minutes before that were more of the same. The third act, despite a great conclusion to the Jeremiah character, is shoddily written and parts feel tact on. It loses its mythology that made the first half so captivating. Once the mystery of the antagonist is discovered, the story drops out.
Go see it in a theater with a loudspeaker system. It’s most certainly not the best story, but it buries you in a dark fire that’s never extinguished. Mandy brings such a deadly attitude that it’s almost impossible not to sick back and enjoy. The good outweighs the bad, but there’s enough bad to bring this film from good to great.