Panos Cosmatos’ “Mandy” will be a film that not everyone will click in to. What could be a typical revenge thriller about a man avenging his wife is transformed in to a brilliant and mesmerizing trip in to insanity and literal hell. We know so little about Nicolas Cage’s character, but once he’s lost everything in his life, he descends in to a madness and hellfire that’s both horrifying and awe inspiring. Every single frame of “Mandy” is a mind blowing moving painting, one filled with vast colors and shades. The world Red and Mandy share is so vast, but is set just for them and them alone.
Set in 1983 A.D. in the Pacific Northwest, Cage is Red Miller, a logger who by day works hard and by night goes home to spend his time soaking in his wife’s company and bonding with her. Things take a turn for the worse though when a religious cult happens by and the leader, Jeremiah Sand, decides he must have Mandy. After invading their home and kidnapping the couple, Red witnesses Mandy’s murder as she turns down the advances of the leader, literally laughing at his presence. Once Red is let loose, he forges a pair of weapons and begins hunting down the members of the cult, leading to the head.
Cosmatos’ film is a brilliant, gonzo, surreal, and mind blowing work of art that is never set with simplicity. Though the plot could fit in to any framework, Cosmatos turns the idea of tragedy, grief, murder, and injustice in to a blood soaked journey in to carnage and guts. The more Red descends in to anger and rage, the more Cosmatos strays from the sense of reality, transforming his protagonist in to a veritable warrior, armed with a scoped crossbow and axe. The villains are purposely and quite brilliantly exaggerated to help us connect even further with Red’s journey.
Although the cult here seems like heinous murderers, they take on supernatural shades when Red confronts them. Cosmatos is genius in playing with our perceptions of Red’s reality, oh so gradually emphasizing the pure evil in the cult Red slashes through in Conan the Barbarian levels of grue. Cage is shockingly very restraint considering “Mandy” is a film that seems custom made for him. As Red he’s a boiling figure of rage, and madness, who works swiftly and even wears his enemies’ blood and guts like war paint. He’s a man who devolves in to a pure savage once he’s lost his only love, striking down those that hurt him in a siege of axes, chains, chainsaws, and arrows.
The late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score is immaculate with “Mandy” watching like a pseudo-eighties synth heavy fever dream, while Benjamin Loeb’s cinematography is top notch. “Mandy” is a surprise out of left field for me, I admit, as I always approach Nicolas Cage films with zero expectations. Panos Cosmatos delivers a home run with what is easily one of the most mind blowing, mind fuck, horror revenge pictures of the year.
In theaters September 14.