Mandy provides balls to the wall insanity in a way only a Nicholas Cage film can.
And it’s pure brilliance.
Similarly to my piece on S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk, I’m not going into massive detail plot-wise on this one. Mainly because even after watching Mandy twice, I’m still not 100% sure as to what’s going on.
In this surreal revenge flick, Nicholas Cage stars as Red Miller, a man living in quiet solitude with his wife, Mandy (played by Andrea Riseborough). Following the introduction of cult-leader Jeremiah Sand and his cronies, well, things get pear shaped. Miller’s serene life with Mandy is brutally stripped from him. And it’s not pretty.
First thing’s first – the off-screen talent. Director and co-writer Panos Cosmatos crafts an experience that is as visceral as it is harrowing. Miller’s journey through grief and then vengeance is overlaid with striking visuals and shocking violence. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film quite like this. Similar to Zahler, Cosmatos also hasn’t been in the director’s chair for long, with Mandy only being his second outing in the role. And so far, this is very impressive.
The film’s haunting visuals work in tandem with the overall score to create a palpable sense of dread. Composer Jóhann Jóhannsson does a phenomenal job here in creating atmosphere, in what turned out to be one of his final pieces before his passing in 2018. If you need further proof of his talent – look no further than 2015’s Sicario.
“There’s no other word to describe it. Insane.”
As for the performances, Cage is absolutely electric as Miller – a man brought past the brink of insanity as he tears through hell itself to get his revenge. Linus Roache’s performance as Jeremiah Sand is equally noteworthy as he perfectly captures the temperament of the Manson-esque cult leader – one that balances both narcissism and a fragile ego.
Now the horror elements of the film – well, it works in two parts. To put it simply, we spend the first half of the film watching a man get brutally beaten down. And the second half getting that oh so sweet vengeance. The title card’s appearance at the film’s midpoint more overtly signifies the dichotomy between these two stages. And the latter half is insane. There’s no other word to describe it. Insane.
Demonic bikers? Check. A chainsaw fight? Check. A screaming Nicholas Cage? Check. What’s not to love here?
The irredeemably evil nature of the film’s villains really does justify the carnage that ensues, and has us unexpectedly revelling in their destruction as we cheer on Miller. Even more unexpectedly, amid the darkness there are some moments that’ll have you roaring with laughter. Like I said before, this is really unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
In the crescendo of insanity that has pervaded throughout the fifty-five year old actor’s career, this might just be Nicholas Cage’s finest hour.
Image use license here.