Nicolas Cage has had an interesting career. When he is on his game, he is one of the best and most committed actors of his generation and, yet, on occasion he overacts and pulls himself back down. On this roller-coaster of good and bad Nicolas Cage performances, where does Mandy fall?
Synopsis: Pacific Northwest. 1983 AD. Outsiders Red Miller and Mandy Bloom lead a loving and peaceful existence. When their pine-scented haven is savagely destroyed by a cult led by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand, Red is catapulted into a phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance and laced with fire. (Elevation Pictures)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough and Linus Roache
Writers: Panos Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart-Ahn
Director: Panos Cosmatos
Rating: 18A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 121mins
The story here follows the life of Red Miller (Cage), a lumberjack, who works at the saw mill while his girlfriend Mandy Bloom (Riseborough) is a cashier at the local convenience store. Their world is turned upside-down when Jeremiah Sand (Roache), the leader of a cult biker gang, takes a liking to Mandy and has his group kidnap her. She refuses his advances causing his gang to set her on fire in front of a tied up Red. Able to escape, Red plots his revenge against the cult by any means necessary.
Right off the bat it’s worth mentioning that this film will not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is a bloody, sadistic revenge story that is best compared to if Grindhouse and John Wick had a drug-infused baby. With that in mind this premise, and by extension the style, may not be of interest to everyone. Having said that, fans of B-movies, gore fests and Nicolas Cage will absolutely love this movie as it achieves a swift cult status.
The film’s unique premise is fairly standard in that a person seeks to exact their revenge against people who ruined their life. How Mandy standouts from the rest is thanks to its style evident in its direction, visuals and score. Cosmatos somehow manages to blend the feeling of catharsis found in revenge stories with psychedelic visuals and cinematography to make a two-hour fever dream the audience actually doesn’t mind experiencing. This is accented by a beautifully written synthesized last score by Johann Johannsson.
However, out of everything that works in this film, the standout is the performance by Nicolas Cage. Cage has had a storied career that has seen him applauded as well as criticized for many of his performances. Some of his mannerisms (Cage-isms) have become so iconic that it’s hard not to notice when he overacts in a particular role. Luckily, that is not that case here because in a film like Mandy there is no such thing as overacting. The story is so out there and ridiculous, but at the same time has some touching, emotional story moments that can only be captured by the insanity of Nicolas Cage.
Overall, Mandy is a gory revenge thriller on steroids that embraces its uniqueness to create something unexpectedly profound. While the premise may not be for everyone and the style is certainly different, the outstanding visuals and direction, immersive score and strong performances, centered around a perfectly cast protagonist, make for a shockingly damn good time. It is an instant cult classic that will gain Rocky Horror Picture status in no time.
On top of writing reviews for this site, I also post video reviews on my YouTube channel The Film Fanatic where we post other content like countdown videos, movie recommendations, script analyses and more.