After seeing this film, viewers may never want to put Nicolas Cage on the wrong side as he unleashes a world of hurt in Panos Cosmatos’ visceral homage to grindhouse horror and action films.
It is 1983 in the Northwest Mountains. Red is a man who lives a peaceful existence with his girlfriend Mandy, an aspiring artist who loves to read about space and the occult. Red has it all. That is until one fateful day changes both of their lives forever. A sadistic cult known as the Children of the New Dawn have arrived to town and the leader, Jeremiah, sets his sights on Mandy. Kidnapping her, Red searches for answers.
When Jeremiah and his cult go too far and even torture Red to make their message clear, Red makes his escape and he’s had enough. With some help from fellow camper Caruthers, Red finds the answers that he needs and begins a quest of revenge. Forging a new hand-made weapon, Red decides to go to any length to go after anyone associated with the Children of the New Dawn in hopes to find and reunite with the love of his life, no matter how much his sanity will diminish.
The second feature film from Panos Cosmatos is a complete visceral and insane trip that pays homage to 1980’s grindhouse horror and action. The film’s visuals include a pinkish filter used for certain scenes as well as the bright use of purples and the cinematography is spot on. Coming up with the story and co-writing with Aaron Stewart-Ahn, Cosmatos truly brings us a vision of a film that can bring to mind celebrated filmmakers such as Jodorowsky, Buñuel, and even in some sense the Davids, Cronenberg and Lynch with a taste of perhaps Takashi Miike. There are also some strange animations of what we believe is Mandy that come from Red’s mind. Even Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score is truly epic in a 1980’s kind of way, bringing this homage really to life.
The reason to see this movie is not just the visual imagination of Cosmatos, but the performances of both Nicolas Cage and Linus Roache are, beyond the shadow of a doubt, impressive in the most bat(censored) crazy kind of way. Cage’s quest for vengeance and justice triggers him into complete maniac mode, and that indicates it is a step above his maniacal performance in this year’s earlier entry Mom and Dad. And that’s exactly what it is. As for Roache’s Jeremiah, his performance oozes insanity as we see him at times going postal on one of his followers one minute then being sympathetic to another the next minute. Jeremiah is truly a psychotic person who thinks he knows what’s best and what love is. He is the most insane of the cult leaders depicted on screen in a long time.
Andrea Riseborough’s titular Mandy is quite a character herself as she doesn’t delve into any madness like her male counterparts. She lets her love of arts and reading about the space and the occult do the talking for her. She brings a more visual performance in the film with her eyes bringing out her emotions and for some strange reason, it works well here.
Aside from bat(censored) crazy, the film’s final 50 minutes can be described in one simple word: relentless. This is the piece de resistance of the film as we see Red on his mission of revenge. First, after speaking with Caruthers, an honorable camper who is the only other person Red can rely on, played by veteran Bill Duke, Red forges a new style of weapon that one would expect in either a horror or post-apocalyptic film. It looks like a meshing of elements of a spear, an axe, and a scythe that looks like something any weapon collector will want to have.
The relentless actions of Red unleashing havoc has plenty that gore fans will enjoy. This includes Cage taking on the bodyguards of the cult, a group of menacing looking bikers as well as others. In one sense, there is a reason why Red’s face turns completely Red and there is a nice exchange of fisticuffs between Cage and bikers at time. A notable sequence involves Red engaging against one cult member in one of the most insane chainsaw duels since both The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 and the Hong Kong action film Tiger on the Beat. Of course, it just shows Red’s descent into madness all in the name of love and revenge.
Mandy is not only homage to the grindhouse horror genre of the 80’s, but a beautifully striking and visceral trip into madness, driven by the best “crazy” performance of Nicolas Cage and the wonderful performances by both Andrea Riseborough and Linus Roache.
WFG RATING: A
RLJE Films and Piccadilly Pictures presents a UMedia/XYZ Films/SpectreVision production in association with SQN Capital. Director: Panos Cosmatos. Producers: Nate Bolotin, Daniel Noah, Adrian Politowski, Josh C. Waller, Elijah Wood. Writers: Panos Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart-Ahn. Cinematography: Benjamin Loeb. Editing: Brett W. Bachman.
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Bill Duke, Richard Brake, Olwen Fouéré, Ivailo Dimitrov, Ned Dennehy, Clément Baronnet, Alexis Julemont, Line Pillet, Hayley Saywell.