Brace yourself for a cinematic experience like no other before. “Mandy,” starring Nicholas Cage, made its Canadian premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival, and love it or hate it, Panos Cosmatos’ second feature film which he directed and co-wrote will most likely leave a permanent mark on you.
Set in 1983, lumberjack Red Miller (an incredible Nicholas Cage) lives peacefully in a small house in the woods with his spouse Mandy (Andrea Riseborough; “Birdman” and “Oblivion”). When religious cult leader Jeremiah (Linus Roache; “Batman Begins” and “The Chronicles of Riddick”) spots Mandy on the side of the road, he orders his obedient followers to summon the aid of a truly bizarre and almost non-human gang of bikers to abduct her, for he must have her. When things don’t go as planned following the kidnapping, Jeremiah’s cult slays Red’s love of his life, right before his eyes, in a truthfully horrendous way. Upon this moment, the woodsman snaps and goes on a rampage to exact revenge on everyone who ruined his life. You’d better step aside from Nicholas Cage’s path; even if you are a freaky gang of bikers.
First off, “Mandy” is like nothing you have seen before. Esthetically beautiful and visually striking, the first act of the film is an exquisite contrast of grainy camera quality at times, followed by bright, brushed and polished colors in other scenes. For the eyes, “Mandy” is a sweet, sweet piece of moist cake that you carefully bite into at midnight without waking the entire family: it’s simply delicious. In addition to this, the soundtrack is fantastic as well, smacking you right in your ears (and face) with a thunderously heavy roar. The numerous combinations of prominent colors and deafening audio make up quite an impressive recipe to throw you off-guard.
Nicholas Cage delivers an unbelievable performance from beginning to end. From a somber, “keeps-to-himself” lumberjack, to a total meltdown following the death of his love, to a man who has nothing to lose and resorts to extreme violence with nothing to lose; Cage is simply astonishing. The meltdown scene in particular, covered in blood, in his underwear inside his bathroom, is shot in one long take, and is basically perfect. After a slight lull in his career, the legendary actor is more on top of his game than ever. Also in regards to characters, the roles of the odd biker gang (reminiscent of “Hellraiser’s” Cenobites) was eccentric and enjoyable, although I didn’t really understand why Jeremiah’s cult needed them to abduct Mandy rather than doing it themselves.
There are some downfalls to “Mandy,” as remarkable as it is. The entire film is a literal LSD experience. Despite some oftentimes extraordinary visuals, there are also some headache-inducing blurs all over the screen, in the midst of conversations. As noted above, the soundtrack is genuinely incredible. Nonetheless, there are frequently portions of conversations that seem to have “artistic” echoing slammed into the dialogue, making it sometimes difficult to just make out what a character is saying. All of this, combined with 80% of Jeremiah’s metaphorical speeches became quite annoying and dizzying. Now I get it; a cult leader speaks in paraphrasing and hypnotizing, symbolic fashion, but almost everything that came out of his mouth was just that, making it quite redundant at times. Furthermore, I always enjoy a charismatic villain (who doesn’t?), and while Linus Roache doesn’t do a horrible portrayal of the cult leader, he also doesn’t perform in a way that will stick with you forever. Also, I would’ve liked to see more of the peculiar followers involved in the cult. It’s a shame, because I was pleasantly thrown into an experience out of my comfort zone in the first half of the film, only to be uncomfortable for the wrong reasons throughout the rest of the film.
In the end, “Mandy” is a grand cinematic experience that should be viewed by those seeking something different, although some of its LDS-ish aspects may either blow your mind in the most orgasmic manner, or literally twist your senses in a truly unpleasant way. Nonetheless, Panos Cosmatos’ feature film merits 3.5 stars out of 5.