02nd Oct2018

LFF 2018: ‘Mandy’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouéré, Richard Brake, Bill Duke, Line Pillet, Clément Baronnet, Hayley Saywell | Written by Panos Cosmatos, Aaron Stewart-Ahn | Directed by Panos Cosmatos


Taking place in 1983, Red Miller is a lumberjack who lives in a secluded cabin in the woods. His artist girlfriend Mandy spends her days reading fantasy paperbacks. Then one day, she catches the eye of a crazed cult leader, who conjures a group of motorcycle-riding demons to kidnap her. Red, armed with a crossbow and custom Axe, stops at nothing to get her back, leaving a bloody, brutal pile of bodies in his wake.

In recent years, it’s become increasingly harder to differentiate between what’s a profound performance of Nicolas Cage or the rage infilled meme that he’s become, to shockingly effective outcomes. The lines are blurred, to say the least, with every stoic and atmospheric performance: earning the actor plaudits in Dog Eat Dog or Joe, yet the inevitable but eventful Wicker Man-like performance often arises to terrorise and remind us all the parameters of the good and bad material on offer.

His character in Mandy is playfully in the middle ground between both sides of Cage’s excessive range. A conscious and devilishly smart decision by director Panos Cosmatos who converges the two parallels of Cage’s stoic animosity and outlandish bizarre rage into a delightful romp of excessive, albeit effective mood. It’s never overly clear to the audience who Red Miller is, nor for Cage in that matter, who delightfully swings his bat of bottled emotion around until it finds something to break and smash open against, freeing whatever caged feeling said character may have, for us to see the outrageous and unexplained formulate and come to a fruition. Cage is undoubtedly enigmatic, playing with mysticism in a clever and justified manner. He adds a delightful layer of tension and enciphered to the proceedings, helped by the 80’s infused usage of smoke machines and lasers that while feeling cheap, undoubtedly serve their purpose to create otherworldly toxicity.

Once Mandy begins to unravel after an hour of incredibly slow burning and torturous build-up that never feels either well-placed or deeply significant, it’s clear that Cosmatos’ film is ever so slightly self-indulgent. Granted, this is an independent venture where Panos Cosmatos has presumably pumped in a whole host of self-financing and it’s clearly his film, yet, it does suggest limited restraint shown in an overlong edit that would’ve sufficed with a far more engaging and stricter method of direct storytelling. It is this aspect that Mandy is riddled with issues. It’s far too long for its own good, and harshly I may add, one will be wondering if it was all worth it by the time the end credits roll; in a destitute and silent room of terrified audience members sit in morbid confusion…


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