There’s not much I can say in this review that will spoil Mandy. The basic plot has been completely revealed in the trailers. The draw for this movie has no doubt been the opportunity to see Nick Cage go full crazy on a blood soaked rampage with swords, crossbows and chainsaws. If that’s what it takes to get audiences through the front door, fine.
I think that audiences will be happy to discover that there’s way more to it than that. Mandy is one of those films that you can look at, many times over and find new secrets hiding under its very simple story.
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Mandy plays hard to get
The biggest obstacle I’ve faced here is Australia, is actually finding somewhere to watch Mandy at a respectable time. When I asked the promoters here why they wouldn’t run it as per any other normal film, the response was. “Mandy is no ‘normal film’ Mandy is a masterpiece with niche appeal so the cinemas need to program it in sessions they feel will work best for the majority of that audience”.
Right, so we have to be content with multiplexes running Venom sessions 7 or 8 fucking times a day, because they’d prefer to make it easier for stupid people to watch movies any time they want. Now I’m not saying that if you want to see Venom you’re stupid, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to see Venom. What I am saying that the powers that be think you’re stupid, and a movie set in the Spiderman universe that doesn’t include Spiderman is all you deserve.
If you want to see Mandy, it appears you have to work for it.
If you do make the effort, you’ll be glad you did.
Who made it?
Director Panos Cosmatos—whose other films include the brilliant ‘Beyond the Black Rainbow’—has turned in a film that is surreal, colourful, bleak, beautiful and horrific.
If you really have no idea what the plot is and you don’t want it spoiled probably best to turn away right now.
What is it about?
The first half of Mandy is very much a love story, spent demonstrating the depth of the bond between Nicholas Cage’s character Red and Andrea Riseborough’s Mandy. Set in 1983, Red is a lumberjack Mandy is an artist who likes indulging in fantasy novels and wearing Motley Crue and Black Sabbath shirts. They have a beautiful home together out in the forest and while it’s obvious both characters have some baggage from their past, they are perfect together.
That perfection is broken when the mysterious Children of the New Dawn cult arrive, headed by Linus Roache’s Jeremiah Sand. Jeremiah somehow conjures up a group of LSD fuelled motorcycle-riding demons by tooting the horn of Abraxas and Mandy is kidnapped and killed. Red seeks out his buddy Caruthers—played by the legend Bill Duke, who you would recognise from films like Deep Cover, Predator and Commando—gets weaponed up and the second half of the film is dedicated to bloody and extreme revenge via slashing stabbing, sawing and crushing.
What does it look and sound like?
The film is not all soaked in blood, it’s also awash in a psychedelic haze of beautiful colour thanks to the cinematography of Benjamin Loeb and the awesome synth and industrial sounds of composer Jóhan Jóhannsson (who sadly passed away before the film was completed). It contains shades of some great 70’s and 80’s animated movies like 1977’s Wizards or 1981’s Heavy Metal with a touch of Dario Argento’s style thrown in for good measure. Influences aside, in the current creative vacuum that is Hollywood, Mandy is totally unique in many ways.
And while Nicholas Cage has become a meme to some, this is a reminder of just how great an actor he truly is. He is incredible in this role as Red. He eats this role up moving from exhausted to content to beyond his breaking point and ultimately fuelled by revenge. And you want him to go there, you want him to bathe in the monster’s blood. There are a lot of really violent moments in the second half of the movie and I found them incredibly cathartic and exhilarating.
On the surface this is indeed a great revenge film, but have a dig, give it another watch and look for what is hidden beneath. Cosmatos himself has said it’s about grief, others say it’s about the fragile male psyche, some say it’s about Gnostism and others have drawn connections to the hallucinations of psychologist Carl Jung. There are a shitload of articles and theories out there as to what actually lies beneath the symbolism so heavily featured in Mandy. What is the truth behind it? Well like all good art, I think it’s open to interpretation.
I agree with the distributors, Mandy is a masterpiece, but niche appeal? I guess most cult films are until those inside the creative vacuum arrive late to the party and decide to do a dumbed-down remake. I wish distributors would take more of a chance on stuff like this instead of constantly shovelling garbage down our throats.
Mandy, is a big fat fuckin’ psilocybin laced layer cake. Get to the party early, grab a slice and see for yourself why I’m giving it five out of five.