Another day, another Nicolas Cage revenge movie, right? But director Panos Cosmatos, with his blood red heavy metal Mandy, delivers what has long seemed impossible.
A very good Nicolas Cage revenge movie.
What better way to meet Red Miller (Cage) than wielding a chainsaw. But this isn’t a weapon–yet. Red is a lumberjack who lives and works in the Shadow Mountains in Eastern California, and this is the tool of his trade. Nevertheless, if you consider what kind of movie this is, and who’s holding that tool, this is a textbook example of the dramatic device known as Chekhov’s chainsaw.
Red lives with his wife Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), enjoying a peaceful, rural life reading science fiction, listening to prog rock, and watching horror movies on tv. However, this woodland idyll is disturbed when cult leader Jeremiah (Linus Roache), a violent hippie with a Messiah complex, targets the couple and perhaps unwisely tries to plug his private press record.
Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) takes his sweet, diabolical time setting up his star’s outburst, but no director has set up their Cage rage like this before. From the late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s menacing score, to cinematographer Benjamin Loeb, who frequently tints frames an infernal red, to the psychedelic light shows that convey a really bad batch of acid, Mandy has so much texture that you want to scratch yourself.
For the most part, Cage’s co-stars are apt foils, the cult members of the Children of the New Dawn, including Richard Brake as their chemist, as hammy in their doom-saying way as Cage. And it’s a treat to see Bill Duke as the guy who has been holding onto Red’s weapons in his trailer, just in case.
Still, it’s more than an hour before Cage takes his moment and grabs it. When he finally does, it’s a magnificent sight to behold, an extended, delirious steel Cage match that gets more deliciously bloodcurdling with each evil victim.
The tax-burdened ham long ago took a career turn for the worse, taking whatever script that seemed to come his way. While Mom and Dad fared slightly better, giving Cage a chance to let loose in a sloppy satire, The Humanity Bureau didn’t even supply the kind of freak out you’ve come to expect, nay, demand from this stage in his career. All is finally forgiven with Mandy, in which the actor finally meets a director that’s as willing to go as over-the-top as he is. The movie is available on VOD, though it’s best seen on the big screen. Unfortunately, in the Washington, D.C. area, you’ll have to venture all the way out to the Alamo Drafthouse in Ashburn, VA, or the Parkway Theater in Baltimore, to see it in a venue that befits its Grand Guignol spectacle.
Directed by Panos Cosmatos
Written by Panos Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart-Ahn
With Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, and Bill Duke.
Rated R. Contains strong language, graphic violence, and full frontal nudity.