A film like Mandy is hard to describe, but if I had to only use two words, “weird” and “insane” would be best. Mandy is a psychedelic revenge tale unlike any I’ve seen before. While the imagery, violence and overall atmosphere is striking and unpleasant, it all just feels so hollow in the end. Maybe I’m missing some deeper meanings hidden within and need to watch it twelve times to better understand the story, but I honestly can’t tell you what the hell it is that I watched. Oh well, at least it all looked cool.
Our tragic, blood-soaked love story takes place in 1983. Red (Nicholas Cage) and Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) live a quiet life in the woods. Red chops down trees during the day, Mandy works at a convenience store. It’s simple and perfect. This perfect life all comes to an end when cult leader (and unsuccessful musician) Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) notices Mandy walking down the road as he and his followers drive past. Instantly, Jeremiah is in love and declares he has to have her. Of course, terrible things proceed to happen and Red is thrown into a frenzy that sets him out on a quest to get revenge on those that have wronged him.
That’s the plot. Mandy is very bare bones in that regard. Minimal plot is fine for a revenge movie, but at a runtime of two hours, there really isn’t a lot going on. What most revenge movies could accomplish in a shorter time, Mandy seems to drag on with its deliberately slow pacing. We watch Red and Mandy together to get a sense of their relationship, but it just seemed to take forever to get anywhere interesting. It isn’t until the last forty minutes when things really start to pick up. It honestly reminded me of Nicholas Winding Refn’s, Drive. Watch the trailers for both films and they look intense and full of action. In reality, they move very…. very…. slowly, punctuated by scenes of extreme violence. I enjoyed Drive better the second time, so maybe I would enjoy Mandy after a second viewing as well.
Since the whole movie feels like some drug-fueled dream (it’s hinted at early on that the villains deal with LSD), it makes you question how much all of what is happening is real and how much of this is in the characters heads. Some of the enemies Red faces don’t look and act human. They wield crazy ancient sounding daggers that flash a green light and a rock that acts as some kind of weird ocarina to summon a demon motorcycle gang. Even the ax Red wields could have come straight out of Lord of the Rings. It’s like some post-apocalyptic fantasy world that Red and Mandy are brought into. It could be the drugs, or the world could literally be going to shit, who knows. Mandy is one of those movies that you just have to buckle up and enjoy the ride. The violence is also top notch. If you’re into gruesome kills, Mandy delivers in spades.
The performances are all fantastic. Nicholas Cage is great. Honestly, the trailer really doesn’t do his performance justice. You just have to see it. Yeah, there’s that crazy Nic Cage we love in here, but for most of the film, he’s silent, he’s pissed off, he’s covered in blood, and he’s out for vengeance. He does an amazing job. Linus Roache is particularly unnerving as cult leader Jeremiah. He’s unhinged like Red, but whereas with Red, who just answers with violence, Jeremiah is calm about everything. There’s an uneasiness to how normal he makes all this crazy cult stuff seem. He’s evil incarnate on a whole other level.
I might be trying to read too much into the story of Mandy and what it all means. Maybe, just like the characters, we go along for this ride that has no meaning (which is maybe what director Panos Cosmatos was going for). For all the crazy imagery and violence that Mandy delivers, it can’t make up for how hollow the film feels. If you’re into crazy art house indie horror films, Mandy is a film I would recommend you should check out at least once. It’s an experience, that’s for sure. – NVJ
Mandy releases in theaters and on demand September 14th.
Screener provided by RLJ Entertainment