As I mentioned in my review of Con Air, Nicolas Cage’s career has been through some ups and downs. Sadly, the past decade or so has been more downs than ups due to some less-than-stellar projects. While he has appeared in some theatrical films, he’s mostly been relegated to direct-to-video flicks found at the local Redbox. Of course, the main reason why he seems to not turn down a role is because of his financial troubles. However, for every Left Behind and Arsenal, there are those hidden gems he manages to find. Films like Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and Joe are reminders of his talent as an actor. Now enter Italian-Canadian filmmaker Panos Cosmatos, son of George P. Cosmatos, director of Rambo: First Blood Part 2 and Tombstone. After his directorial debut with 2010’s Beyond the Black Rainbow, Panos returns eight years later to bring us Mandy.
Set in 1983, Cage plays Red Miller, who lives with his girlfriend Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) in the Shadow Mountains. He works as a lumberjack while she works on her art and reads fantasy books at home. Then one day, she catches the eye of a religious cult, led by the deranged Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache). Jeremiah is instantly enamored with her, and he conjures up some motorcycle-riding demons to capture her and Red. Jeremiah tries seducing Mandy into the cult, but when she laughs at his lack of manhood, he sets her ablaze. The cult leaves Red for dead and mourning over the ashes of his lost love, rendering him insane. After getting some help from an old friend named Caruthers (Bill Duke), Red sets out to take his revenge. From there, it becomes a wild ride of over-the-top violence, gore and bloodshed, and very psychedelic and almost dreamlike imagery.
I’ll just come out and say that this is easily my favorite film of 2018 without a doubt. For one, the movie is incredible stylish, has very vivid colors, and creates an almost dreamlike quality to it. It almost feels like watching a cinematic fever dream, like you’re going further into the insanity of Nicolas Cage’s character. Speaking of which, Nicolas Cage completely owns the role and he delivers one of his best performances in years. Linus Roache is also fun to watch as the deranged religious cult leader whose almost as over-the-top as Cage. Plus, even though he only has one scene which is disappointing, it’s cool to see Bill Duke make an appearance. The first half, while slow at times, is still captivating to watch thanks to the dreamlike atmosphere and stylized imagery. The slower pace helps to effectively build up to the over-the-top second half.
Once the second half starts and the action kicks in, it becomes an insanely fun ride of violence and bloodshed. Armed with a crossbow, a giant battle axe, and a chainsaw amongst others, he goes all out. While some may be put off by the over-the-top violence, I feel it goes along with the insanity on display. You really feel that this horrible event drove this innocent man insane. I’ll fully admit this is not a film for everyone, like you won’t see this in a multiplex. Also, some will complain that there’s not much more to this film other than a simple and straightforward revenge story. This is for those who not only appreciate stylish visuals and gripping performances, but can go along for the ride. Mandy is a film that I feel no other 2018 film will ever top, and that about sums it up.