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Review: MANDY (2018)

Nicolas Cage is a lumberjack, and he’s definitely not OK. He used to be, enjoying a peaceful life in the wilderness with his artist girlfriend, but a psychotic cult leader ruined that idyllic existence. Now he’s out for bloody revenge. Sounds like a typical Nicolas Cage film, right? Well MANDY, Panos Cosmatos’ follow-up to BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is anything but typical.

It’s 1983 and Red Miller (Nicolas Cage, MOM AND DAD, PRIMAL) and his beloved Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough OBLIVION, POSSESSOR) live a peaceful life in the woods where he works as a lumberjack. She’s an artist. They love each other, long talks about their favourite planets and life in general.

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Then she catches the eye of Jeremiah (Linus Roach BATMAN BEGINS, DIVISION 19) the Mansonesque leader of The Children of the New Dawn. Unlike other cult leaders, he actually can summon demons, and he has them bring Mandy to him. But when she rejects him, she meets a fiery end. One that Red is forced to watch. But as with so many other screen villains, they make the mistake of leaving him for dead rather than making sure of it. He won’t make the same mistake with them.

Sold as a hyper violent revenge film, MANDY actually takes a long time to get to the point. She doesn’t die until near the two-hour film’s midpoint, and it takes another fifteen or so minutes before the revenge starts. What we get before is what will divide people’s opinions. There are loads of absolutely stunning cinematography backing up an absolutely glacially slow build up. Granted, it gives us time to get to know the main characters, but it easily could have been trimmed by fifteen to twenty minutes.

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Once the deed is done, however, the film simply goes batshit. There’s really no other way to put it. Cage has an epic drunken meltdown on a toilet that makes his performance in MOM AND DAD look restrained. And then he gets violent. Getting some info and weapons from Caruthers (Bill Duke, PREDATOR, ACTION JACKSON) he takes on The Black Skulls, the demonic bikers who kidnapped Mandy. Looking like a cross between GWAR and a pack of Cenobites, this sets the tone for what’s to come. It also features a death that pretty much defines “Go fuck yourself”. Loading up on the occult infused drugs that fuelled them, he sets his sights on Jeremiah and his crew.

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It might be worth noting that Panos Cosmatos is the son of the late George P. Cosmatos who gave us COBRA and LEVIATHAN among others, so action scenes may be in his DNA. The film has a chainsaw duel that’s the best I’ve seen since MOTEL HELL, but he also carves his own path away from his father’s more straightforward films. With animation, random tigers and all the rest, MANDY is anything but straightforward. What it is, is a trip into Hell that stops to appreciate the scenery.

MANDY is currently in limited theatrical release and available on VOD.

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