Panos Costamos throws away the rule book for revenge movies and fashions a dream-like piece of cinematic carnage with Mandy. It’s a cosmic piece of cinema which plays like a half-remembered dream which was fuelled by a night of excessive experimental drug taking (I would imagine).
Nicolas Cage is the logger who goes on a blood-fuelled rampage after his lover (Andrea Riseborough) is killed by a Charles Manson style cult led by Linus Roach (putting it all out there literally and figuratively).
In stylistic and tonal sense, Mandy is a cinematic cousin of Nicolas Widing Refn’s Valhalla Rising and Only God Forgives, a trippy experience which sees the colour drenched visuals taking precedence over the plot. It’s a much better film than Only God Forgives, which was a disappointing use Refn’s talent and Ryan Gosling’s talent. Panos Costamos knows that he has cinematic gold with Nicolas Cage and he knows how to use him.
The first fifty minutes of Mandy refuses to allow for any real story and if you wanted you could probably condense all the necessary information into about 10 minutes. Nicolas Cage is mainly sidelined during this time, with Riseborough and Roach scoring the majority of the screen-time. However, once Nic is uncaged he goes full-tilt boogie, offering-up his own brand of German Expressionistic/Western kabuki (Cage’s words, not mine). Some might say it’s an over-the-top performance (and it might be) but it’s not a bad one. This is something which few actors could ever deliver and it takes a certain amount of courage to do what Cage does. How else would have the cajones to put themselves out there like this.
What it lacks in plot and character, Mandy makes up for in visuals. The whole thing plays like a live action version of a 1980s metal album cover, something featuring rich blood-reds and monstrous beasts on motorbikes. It’s neo-modern medieval fantasy and Cage is like a demented knight on a quest for justice, armed with his home-forged axe and crossbow. There’s no room for guns here – but there is space for a chainsaw duel.
Trippy visuals, with a score from composer Jóhann Jóhannsson to match, at times Mandy feels like an 1980s fantasy film told through the prism of a Taken-style revenge thriller (or vice versa). It‘s not wholly successful in being a good film, but it’s certainly unique. You’ll not see anything else this year which is quite like Mandy.