Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Review: Mandy

Cert: 18 / 121 mins / Dir. Panos Cosmatos / Trailer

It does seem that every new Nic Cage film arrives accompanied by the descriptor 'going full Nic Cage' as its selling point. Obviously the guy can't be trapped in an ever-escalating gyroscope of cinema, but it does sometimes feel like movies are being written with him specifically in mind.

This offering from director and co-writer Panos Cosmatos sees Cage star as Red, a logger residing in the Californian mountains with his artist girlfriend Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) in 1983. When the members of a cult pass through the backwater, their leader Jeremiah (Linus Roache) becomes obsessed with Mandy and orders his followers to kidnap her to join the group. Mandy is resistant to both the ideology and the psychotropic drugs forced upon her, and in a fit of pique Jeremiah orders her to be killed while Red watches. Left for dead, our protagonist frees himself and embarks on a rampaging odyssey of brutal revenge, where the boundaries of reality become as warped as the morality of his nemeses…


And it's glorious. Two hours of extravagantly outlandish, glorious carnage paying homage to space rock and pulp fantasy novels. Because obviously in a movie where cultists play an ocarina to summon a gang of knock-off Cenobites on quad bikes without batting an eyelid, Nic Cage is going to wear a Ray-Ban Aviators as safety goggles while he forges himself a battle-axe, before later eschewing that weapon to have a chainsaw fight. Everything about this screams fuck yeah.

Mandy is the sort of movie where the viewer never loses track of what's going on, but if it was paused and they were asked to give a summary probably wouldn't know where to start. It's a ponderous, vigorous, hallucinatory companion piece to Drive Angry with notes of Rocky Horror and The Hills Have Eyes. It would be self-indulgent if it wasn't so gleefully volatile.


As much as the film effects an air of schlocky trash, Mandy can't disguise the precision and joy with which it's been made. As if Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth and Darren Aronofsky raised a child in some twisted parody of Three Men And A Baby and then unleashed it upon the world. And that's not to say this is an exploitative, mindless gorefest - it's not. But it clearly loves the films which are and has channeled that fondness through the prism of Nic Cage's desensitised fury.

The film is split into acts, each presented with their own uniquely styled (yet visually continuous) title card. Cinematographer Benjamin Loeb treats the story like his own fever dream, with neither a prop nor pixel out of place in each meticulously constructed shot. Whether it's the blood-hued interior of a stark, angular wooden church, an alien cosmos resting over the forest skyline or just Nic Cage screaming on the toilet in his pants as he necks vodka from the bottle, you'll be hard pushed to find more arresting imagery this year in such an accessible format*1.


Mandy is precisely the sort of thing I enjoy travelling into London to watch, and it quickly became apparent why this didn't play at my local cinema (not that I'd expected it to). At this late stage, the cage fight*2 for the Film Of The Year award just got a bit more crowded.

Plus y'know, Cheddar Goblin!

We do not deserve Nic Cage.
We do not deserve Andrea Riseborough.
And we most certainly do not deserve Panos Cosmatos.

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Well let's start with Drive Angry, but there's far more to it than that.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
If you can, absolutely.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
It is.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It could just well be.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
It's possible, I suppose.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: That prisoner from off of Rogue One is in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 I'm looking at you, Suspiria. [ BACK ]

*2 No pun intended, I promise. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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