“What you’re hunting is rabid animals, and you should go in knowing that your odds ain’t that good. And you’ll probably die.”
~ First Five:
Panos Cosmatos‘ heavy metal Mandy, opens with an overshot sweeping pan of a dense, green, and peaceful unnamed forest. Our first introduction to the protagonist played by Nic Cage, is of his character smoking, wearing a number 44 shirt, and cutting one of those peaceful trees down with a chainsaw. What immediately caught my attention was the bold number 44 on his shirt. In tarot, 44 signifies that your wishes and prayers have been heard, and that the angels are working on them. So perhaps Cage has a guardian angel, or that he *is* the guardian angel. It is further seen as the amplification of the single 4, a foundation number with elements of hardwork and being down to earth. Cage‘s character is indeed introduced to us as a man who lives off the land, further enforced by his very naturalistic and humble home located right on Crystal Lake. Pushing the early analysis a bit further, Cage both lives of the land but also destroys the land, as he saws down the gigantic tree. His ensuing habit of smoking carries on his self-destructive tendency, but with some hope for penance as he seems to have turned away from drinking. So perhaps the 44 marks his character as blessed by the angels or gods, imbuing him with otherworldly power. Moments later, we are introduced to his wife, played by Andrea Riseborough. She is what we assume to be an artist, on account of her sketching a “jungle temple” in her worn Mötely Crüe pentagram shirt. The band’s album “Shout at the Devil” having almost bared the pentagram album cover as well as the adjusted pro-satanic title of, Shout *with* the Devil. So in short, two rather opposite spirits unite, one of this land and willing to work for what is his, and the latter of a realm beyond us, the spiritual and majestic. When the two of them have an intimate moment, they tell each other their favourite planets. To her, it is Jupiter, and to Cage, it is Saturn. Now in Greek Mythology, the two planets are better known as the respective Zeus and Cronus. The prior being the King of the Gods and God of the skies, and the latter a titan patron of the harvest. What’s funny and telling, is that Cage later adds on that he would prefer Galactus even more, who happens to be the Marvel Comics’ devourer of planets. ~
So for those of you who are familiar with the auteur that is Panos Cosmatos (what a name!), you’re more than likely able to imagine the style of film this is. It is undoubtedly slow-paced, has various moments of pretentiousness, extremely gory, succeeds in mood and effects, and above all… sounds and looks absolutely epic. Cosmatos‘ team is 2/2 in terms of creating a film that captures the essence of a retro 80s synth surrealist aesthetic. Paired with the last score from the late and great (gone too soon) Johann Jóhannsson, Mandy was a tremendous experience that I wish I could have seen at the cinemas. If there was a cinematic universe for LSD bad trips, Cosmatos would be at the helm. In that same vein, he is definitely the type of filmmaker that likes to strictly focus on elements the inspire and fascinate him, then building the rest around those niche pinpoints. A heavy acquired taste to put it lightly.
The role of Red Miller was written by the Gods, to be embodied by none other than Nicolas “Gods be damned” Cage. It’s a tour de force that has Cage firing on every single cylinder none to this world and the next, putting a coked up psychopath to shame. Mandy is the Art-house Ghost Rider film we never got, tearing Johnny Blaze from his peaceful reclusive life with his wife, Mandy… and giving him the pagan strength to massacre the drug fueled Christian traveling band that screwed up his normal life. Mandy offers us a handful of iconic Cage scenes to be both turned into memes, and to be remembered as completely outrageous under any other circumstance. It’s Nic Cage, no other mortal can go full Cage except the legend himself. The script is almost non-existent, as Red tends to be the decapitate and burn type rather than the talkative negotiator. Such one-liners including but not limited to, “You’re a vicious snowflake!” and “You ripped my favourite shirt?!“, paired with a brilliant crimson stained Cage smile. I’d like to give a shout out to Linus Roache‘s performance as Jeremiah, the leader of the antagonistic cult. His über male ego and vanity perfectly played opposite to Red’s silent yet vicious outburst of emotion. I didn’t really feel for any of the other characters, and I felt that Andrea Risebourough was not used to her maximum potential. But frankly everyone came for one reason, and one alone…Nic Cage, uncaged.
The plot and script are incredibly minimalist. It’s more about the journey and the sensory experience when it comes to Cosmatos. His unique style as seen in Beyond the Black Rainbow is carried through into Mandy. As I mentioned earlier, hints of pretentiousness, lots of lighting, gore, special effects (primarily practical effects), and a banger musical score. The film doesn’t really take off until about the 1hr mark, and I genuinely felt that a lot of people would get turned off by the first act. Like his prior film, it’s extremely slow. Sure it looks and sounds epic, and you feel like you’re on LSD, but there’s not too much said or done that could not be depicted or stated in half the amount of time. It’s mood and tone setting, and certain lingering shots or transitions can come off being a tad bit pretentious; a handful of shots and scenes being present purely for the sake of the special effect or cool ambience. Mandy could easily be a silent film, as it’s the action that carries the majority of the pacing. I can safely say that there were some dull moments. In my defense I do feel had I seen it at the cinemas, I would have been much more enveloped by the visceral energy dripping from the screen and speakers. At a 2hr runtime, the film does have moments where it drags, and like Beyond the Black Rainbow, I do think it’s worth pushing through to get to the batshite climactic third act. That said, I would still cut the runtime down by at least 20 minutes.
Where else are you going to get Nic Cage‘s menacing blood-gurgling screams as he enters a chainsaw duel?! Snorting cocaine from shattered glass and forging his own platinum battle axe while screaming in a bathroom? Seriously, this is a peak Cage entry to his eclectic filmography. I didn’t love it as much as I expected to, but I surely do not regret viewing it. It’s one of the most unique experiences of the year, and not something you can recommend to just anyone. Jóhannsson delivers a gutteral powerhouse Oscar worthy score, making his passing all the much sadder. Paired with the unique direction that Cosmatos brings to the table, I can’t stress just how fascinating the film presents itself as. I would like to make note on Cosmatos‘ change of cinematography, this time selecting someone who I believe has no feature film work. Granted, it’s awesome that the chance was given, but imagine how phenomenal a Cosmatos film would be with a cinematographer like Roger Deakins or Rob Hardy. I do recommend the film, but I give the warning that it is not for everyone’s pallette. Cosmatos‘ style is very divisive, and I do not think you can sit in the middle with it. You either find it intriguing or you think it’s all style no substance.
~ ★★★½ / 5 ~
B$A & NO END CREDIT SCENE
Awards Worthy: Musical Score
PS – I feel like Ethan Embry should work with Cosmatos & Cage.
Quickee Film Time