“Mandy”, an acid drenched heavy metal fantasy epic
By Oscar Chavez Castaneda
You know those vans with the paintings on them? I don’t think many exist anymore but there were some pretty epic ones. You’d see a wizard in front of a thundercloud with lightning shooting out of his hands and a scantily clad warrior woman clutching at his leg with a bunch of skulls everywhere. Maybe a tiger or polar bear to boot. Basically anything that could be ripped off from Frank Frazetta’s work. “Mandy” is one of those paintings that came to life, was drenched in acid, backed by some heavy metal synths and Nicolas Cage showed up to be himself.
In a word: awesome.
“Mandy” was sprung forth from the mind of Panos Cosmatos and stars Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough and Linus Roache. The film’s plot follows Red Miller (Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Riseborough) as their idyllic, peaceful life is upended by the psychotic, religious cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Roache). Mandy is murdered and Red is left for dead. What Jeremiah wasn’t expecting was the slaughter that is to come at the hands of Red once he frees himself.
“Mandy” isn’t a blockbuster. It doesn’t have CGI, a star-studded cast or a simple three act structure. What “Mandy” has is a vision. One that is broadcast through a kaleidoscope that was broken, glued back together and then set on fire.
It is a dichotomy, with the first half bathed in greens and blues, set in a peaceful forest. Red and Mandy live a simple life, built on the love they have for each. Their relationship is stripped down to a basic symbology. Small talk. Hugs. Kisses. Dinner in front of the TV. With little more than the actors’ presence, Cosmatos forges a quiet bond between this doomed couple and the audience that is about to witness their demise.
Cut to the introduction of Jeremiah and his band, an 80’s substitute for the evil king and his court. Strip away the modern edifice and “Mandy” could easily function as a pulp fantasy novel, a vibe that is wonderfully felt throughout the film. Jeremiah and his band emerge from a plume of red smoke, Mandy unfortunately caught up in the delusions of the madman leading this group. A princess that is murdered by the evil king, leaving her prince no choice but REVENGE.
Cage is a simmering pot of rage in “Mandy”, maintaining a quiet demeanor until the death of his wife. After that, the Rage of Cage is fully unleashed and a manic quest ensues that kicks of the latter half of this dichotomy. Gone are the cool blues and greens. In this half of the film, red is everywhere, both the character and the color. Drenched in ultraviolet, hyper-saturated hues, “Mandy” kicks it into high gear and we’re in for a heck of a ride.
As soon as Red makes contact with the biker gang that abducted his wife, he tears them down. Nothing can stand in his way as he goes from one demonic biker to the next, getting closer and closer to Jeremiah and Co. Armed with a crossbow and a giant home-forged battle axe, Red sees red and lets nothing stop him from venting his wrath on those who wronged him.
This movie is such a strange duck, as it pairs violent action with arthouse zaniness. Whenever Red loses consciousness, he envisions his dead wife in animated sci-fi dreams that hold themselves to no rhyme or reason. The film relishes in the absurd but also delivers solid set pieces, such as when Red engages in a chainsaw sword fight. A. Chainsaw. Sword. Fight.
If that last sentence doesn’t do anything for you, then I can probably tell you this film isn’t for you. My wife, ever the patient partner, indulged me and watched this too. Well, whenever she wasn’t reading she watched it. Her review: “I didn’t hate it.”
I loved this weirdo movie, with all it’s artsy fartsy tricks and gore splattered action. I didn’t know what “Mandy” had in store for me but I can tell you I had a dang good time watching this film. If you’re willing to give this a shot and keep an open mind, you’ll see something that is truly unique.
And a chainsaw sword fight! C’mon.
“Mandy” is now available digitally. It is rated R.
3 out of 4 stars