Movie Review : Mandy (2018)
* This review contains spoilers. These spoilers are also in the movie’s IMDB byline, so make of that what you will, but I believe they’re almost a prerequisite to enjoying the film. *
The older I get, the less I understand the appeal of revenge movies. Because 99% of people on Earth think they’ve been wronged at some point in their lives and it’s usually bullshit. Hence the pleasure of living vicariously through a fantasy of triumphing over evil instead of taking responsibility for your own failures. But revenge movies can still be fun and exciting if they’re kept lean, mean and don’t even think about being realistic. Mandy is that kind of movie. It is both absurd, gorgeous and crazy enough to be one of the best films released in 2018.
Mandy is the story of Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough), who despite bearing the scars of a troubled past, live the happily ever after together in the woods. It all turns to shit when a local cult leader named Jeremiah (played by the incredibly talented Linus Roache) falls in love with Mandy and decides to kidnap her. Because that’s why evil people do, you know? Unbeknownst to him, she doesn’t take kindly to being abducted, drugged and forced to watch strangers masturbate in front of her, so Jeremiah decides to kill her. Burn her alive… in front of Red. And it turned to be the worst freakin’ idea he’s ever had.
This is pretty straightforward, right? Mandy isn’t the first or the last movie where some dude exerts bloody and lethal revenge over a designated avatar of evil. But it’s not what Mandy is saying that’s great, it’s how it says it. See, it basically is a heavy metal fantasy. The titular Mandy is a introvert who wears heavy metal t-shirts and spends half her time reading fantasy novels. Although it is never made explicit, I believe the movie is told from her perspective. That the event play out in her head like she remembers them. That’s why when she dies, Mandy takes a sharp left turn into Awesomeville. Because what you’re seeing on screen isn’t Red’s revenge, it’s her revenge fantasy. It’s like she haunts the characters.
So, revenge is mostly an excuse to have amazing things happening on screen in Mandy. For example, there’s a scene where Nicolas Cage whips a chain over his head like a goddamn lasso and tries to disarm a chainsaw-wielding villain with it. I have no idea where else this image would make sense, but it does in Mandy’s strange, gory and wonderful universe. And before you asked, Nicolas Cage was the perfect choice for the part of Red Miller. He doesn’t get to talk much or to feature nuanced emotions. He’s basically Nicolas Cage killing leather-clad demons and bloodthirsty cult members on screen and people will remember the movie primarily for that.
Mandy was co-written and directed by Panos Costmatos, son of schlock legend George Cosmatos (Rambo II, Cobra). It’s a wicked good time and it has more emotional wrinkles than it cares to admit, but the big payoff (and it’s one long, satisfying payoff) is just something to cheer and hoot at. I was reminded of Nicolas Winding-Refn’s movies while watching Mandy, especially The Neon Demon for its pace and bold use of color, but it really lives in a banana dimension of its own. There has been many comparisons with David Lynch, but I would say it looks more Jodorowskian than anything. I don’t know what else to say, really. It’s great. Maybe it lacks narrative complexity to be a perfect film, but it’s memorable nonetheless.