A film that goes for the big swings somehow keeps itself together, thanks to terrific performances and a visual style to dream for. Couple that with its hymnal score, then Mandy is a sure-fire winner of a film.
Pacific Northwest. 1983 AD. Outsiders Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) lead a loving and peaceful existence. When their pine-scented haven is savagely destroyed by a cult led by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache), Red is catapulted into a phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance and laced with fire.
A film that is as simple as it gets. A couple living a quiet life are captured by a druggy religious cult with deathly consequences. The husband then goes off on a revenge murder spree, yet throughout you are compelled by what you see on screen, Panos Cosmato brings a 70’s style (even though it is set in the 80s) to the picture that works tremendously well for modern eyes. When Mandy goes for it in the second half, it goes for it. It is a film that never really tries to explain itself as some shots will confuse the life out of you, as a bit of help to make sure that you don’t go off the deep end trying to analyse those moments, let it wash over you.
On occasion, those moments don’t exactly work in the tone of the film, yet you somehow excuse it as the story and characters fascinate you, whether it is Cage’s Red, who seemed as a protector to the troubled Mandy. Or the utterly sleazy Manson like Jeremiah who goes off on wonderful tangents that grab you and makes for a villain that you hate from the first second but is not too over the top to distract you. In truth, all of the performances in Mandy are pitch-perfect and help bring the whole film together, especially so when the movie takes the road less taken in the second half.
Not so subtly, Red’s journey is his descent into hell as he fights his way through those who wronged him, either directly or indirectly. His wrath is full of intensity and anger that drags you along with it. As the film gets to its finale, it gets set in a gloriously visual way. As characters talk to one another, gorgeous red tint flashes on and off the screen, each time building the suspense into having the audience think something may happen in those pitch-black moments. In saying that, the violence in the final act seems almost underwhelming compared to the battles with the biker gang and the unbelievable chainsaw fight. Yes, for those uninitiated, there is a chainsaw fight, this film tries to have its cake and eat it, and for the most part, it is very successful at it!
In the scene where Red can break free of his barb wire ties and crawl desperately to Mandy, we get a moment that is good as Cage has done. It is dialogue-free, yet we see everything he is feeling on his face. Not only do we see it, we feel it, right to when he is alone in that bathroom. The pain of a man who just can’t hold it in is unrelentingly heart-breaking that if you weren’t already invested, you become so now.
His actions after this cause for one hell of a revenge film, and while he doesn’t say too much after his conversation with Bill Duke in the mobile home, he remains an enigmatic character. I saw this after watching Willy’s Wonderland, and Cage’s performance in Mandy confirms my original thoughts on the film. Having a flat character who is meant to come off as cool but doesn’t, you begin to not care for them. Whereas here, we are so heavily invested in Red’s journey that you can only root for him as he lets out his rage onto those who wronged him. He is enigmatic and a perfect showcase of when Cage is on it and present for the script; he can be unbelievably good.
A film of two halves, with the latter becoming utter chaos, Mandy unexpectedly sits with you for a little while. That latter half holds on for dear life to make sure not to lose you, and if you get through it, it is a very rewarding and unique film.
Blu-ray special features
• Deleted Scenes
• Extended Scenes
• Mandy Behind The Scenes Featurette
• Mandy One-shots
Limited Edition Contents
• Rigid slipcase featuring classic artwork
• Poster featuring classic artwork
• 40-page softcover book with new essays by Tim Murray (The Raygun)
Dazzler Media presents Mandy on Limited Edition Blu-ray 24th May
Purchase on Amazon: www.amazon.co.uk/Mandy-Blu-ray/dp/B08WKGTDT5
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