Monica Castillo

Mandy – first look review

This ultra-violent Nic Cage revenge flick is the stuff midnight movie legend is made of.

In his follow-up to 2010’s Beyond the Black Rainbow, director Panos Cosmatos teams up with writer Aaron Stewart-Ahn to create a seriously weird and violent trip. At first, the world of Mandy is incredibly dark, but the film is soon dipped in Day-Glo acid colours. Lights and filters splash reds, yellows, greens and blues to oversaturate the screen. It’s a disorienting, almost hypnotising effect.

1983; a remote corner of the world. Red (Cage) is a quiet lumberjack who cracks cheesy Erik Estrada jokes with his wife, Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). Although we never quite learn everything about her, she’s an obvious tragic figure, complete with a semi-permanent downcast look and a scar running down her face. When Red’s not around, she keeps to her fantasy art, the kind you might expect to see emblazoned on the side of a metalhead’s van.

Unfortunately, their bliss is interrupted by a psychosexual cult resembling the Manson Family. The group cruelly murders Mandy in front of Red, who then launches into the revenge movie everyone has come out to watch.

Just as the build-up to the bloodshed takes its sweet time, so does Red’s path to revenge. His aim takes a detour away from the murderous cult and onto some masked motorcycle gang, delaying the much more gratifying sequences of retaliation. Another disappointment is Mandy’s role as a sacrificial lamb – especially given that the film bares her name. Her sole purpose here is to serve as motivation for someone else’s actions. She reappears in animated dream sequences, first as a spectre haunting Red’s sleep, then as a siren calling to her man to violently avenge her gruesome death.

The true star of Mandy is obviously Cage, who gives a wonderfully unhinged performance. He channels his manic energy from Snake Eyes and deranged stares from Face/Off to ricochet from one bloody scene to the next. Which in this film’s case, usually means that he is also bathed in some sort of a vivid red light, so that even the parts of his clothing and face which aren’t covered with blood  appear to be so. Red’s arc is truly stuff of midnight movie legend.

At various points, Cage’s character plunges nose-first into a baseball size mound of cocaine, freaks out in a bathroom while necking a bottle of alcohol, and battle a cult member with a chainsaw. Mandy might not be everyone’s idea of a satisfying nightcap, but this surrealistic revenge flick will likely earn a loyal following of its own.

Published 29 Jan 2018

Tags: Nicolas Cage

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