Thursday, September 13, 2018

Review: MANDY

by Patrick Bromley
One of my most anticipated movies of the year does not disappoint.

There will never be another Nicolas Cage. Sure, he takes a lot of shit these days for making so many movies and exercising what appears to be very little quality control. He's also been embraced ironically over the last decade or so by hipsters who "love" Nicolas Cage because he goes so big so often. Yeah, no shit Nicolas Cage is great, guys. They might as well be professing their love for bacon or Jeff Goldblum. There's nothing impressive about it.

What is so great about Cage -- and there was a time he was without question my favorite actor -- is that he's willing to take chances no other actor would take. Sometimes it's in a performance, whether it's doing a Pokey impression in Peggy Sue Got Married or shouting the entire alphabet in Vampire's Kiss. Sometimes it's in his choice of material. I can't think of another A-list, Academy Award-winning actor who would read the screenplay for Mandy and not just understand director Panos Cosmatos' wavelength, but be on it as well. When he's on his game, Nicolas Cage is a gift.
Mandy is a gift as well: one of the best movies of the year and what my friend Elric Kane would call "pure cinema." It exists to be not so much watched as experienced, so please don't just go see theatrically, but see it on the biggest, loudest screen you can. It is destined to be an all-time great midnight movie. It's not just because it's weird -- it is weird -- but because when the lights come up at 2 am and the credits begin to roll in near silence, you'll be positive you dreamed half of what you saw.

The story is the standard stuff of revenge tales: Red (Cage) lives a happy, quiet life in the mountains with his wife Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). She is kidnapped by a religious cult led by Sand Jeremiah (Linus Roache) and eventually killed before Red's eyes. He goes out for revenge. It's Death Wish meets Race With the Devil but with Hellraiser thrown in, too, all filtered through Cosmatos' colorful, wild, hallucinatory style. It's a crazy movie, for sure, but anyone looking for more action-packed, kicky B-movie fun like, say, Drive Angry, most likely won't have the patience for Mandy. This is a movie that takes its time, that holds on shots and allows us to absorb them, that lives in its moments both peaceful and nightmarish. Again, it's an experience.
Cage is great at the movie's center. He has moments that are big but never showy. "Heightened" is probably a better word, because the entire universe in which Mandy exists is heightened. He knows just how to pitch his performance to match the material, completely buying into what Cosmatos has created. There is a scene that will undoubtedly be talked about as a class "Nic Cage scene," in which he stands screaming in a bathroom in a bloodied shirt and tighty whities. What the people who laugh at that scene from an ironic distance fail to understand is that it comes from a place of real pain, and Cage is never a fearful actor: he's going to feel everything deeply and hold nothing back. The genuine sadness and rage he exposes don't so much ground Mandy as it does guide it -- for all its trippy visuals and extreme violence, there's something real at its core.
Even if Mandy isn't your bag -- and it's for sure not a movie for everyone -- you've got to appreciate a film that is so totally realized a very specific vision. Between this and Beyond the Black Rainbow, Panos Cosmatos' films don't feel like anyone else's. Benjamin Loeb's cinematography and the brilliant score by the late, great Jóhann Jóhannsson go a long way towards supporting Cosmatos' vision, making for an angry, violent movie that's more beautiful and hypnotic than it is assaultive. It's so good to see Nicolas Cage back in a film that rewards his bold approach to acting, because Mandy is bold and uncompromising, too. It feels like exactly the movie it wants to be. Cinema is better for it.

Mandy opens theatrically in limited release and will be on VOD platforms tomorrow, September 14.

11 comments:

  1. I'm not reading this. I pre-ordered the blu-ray yesterday. It's coming out in about a month

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  2. This movie sounds nuts and I love that. Can't wait!

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  3. Saw this at the beginning of an all night Nick Cage maraton (humble brag) it's incredible and was so unexpected. Loved it!!!!

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  4. Just watched the movie. What a tripped out experience. Love that when the movie feels like it’s going in a straight line, it zigzags to something weirder. Great movie, can’t wait to watch it again.

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  5. Damn great review just watched it last night pure insanity glad you mentioned Hellraiser bc there is a definite scene that I was like so their Forest Cenobites? Ok cool. Andrea Riseboroughs eyes are unnervingly scary.

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  6. The worst movie I've seen this year? Mandy, Downrange & Mute are the front runners. Maybe, I had to high expectations after all the great reviews. I know it's going for a slow, grind house burn but it was a 2 hour bad acid trip for me. Revenge did the whole revenge flick with style so much better in my opinion.

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  7. What a ride. I can’t say I got everything that was being put down, but its visceral weapons are incredible. Great review, I definitely felt like I dream this.

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  8. I was already game to see it, but Cage saying 'Crazy - Evil' in the trailer got me grinning like a fool. Thanks Patrick!

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  9. All while I was watching this movie I kept thinking this is a Patrick movie. I didn't like it as much as I wanted to but im hoping that after reading some articles and hearing some discussions on the film pointing out some things I may have missed that ill enjoy it more on a second viewing.

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  10. Just saw this and im trying to figure out what was before my eyes.

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