×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Mandy’

Crazed religious cult members make Nicolas Cage very, very angry in this gonzo, stylized horror fever-dream.

Director:
Panos Cosmatos
With:
Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouere, Richard Brake, Bill Duke.

Rated R  2 hours 1 minute

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6998518/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_3

Panos Cosmatos’ 2010 debut feature “Beyond the Black Rainbow” was the kind of movie that divides genre fans into two camps, the enraptured and the infuriated. Visually striking but awfully murky in the realms of plot and meaning, it signaled the arrival of a talent that might prove formidable, or might turn out to be all style and no substance.

Fortunately, his followup “Mandy” maintains all of “Rainbow’s” aesthetic fascination while considerably stepping up the pace and narrative coherency. It will again appeal primarily to artier fan sensibilities — this hallucinogenic mashup of Satanic-cult horror and revenge thriller isn’t exactly multiplex fare — but anyone with a taste for Nicolas Cage in full gonzo mode should get some fun out of its fever-dream progress.

The first half hour or so is more or less a portent-filled romance, with lumberjack Red (Cage) and pulp-fiction cover illustrator Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), two misfits who’ve blissfully found each other in a Pacific Northwest-looking rural area circa 1983. Out walking one day, she’s spied by a van full of religious freaks under the spell of Jeremiah (Linus Roache), whose Messianic delusions have made him leader of the Children of the New Dawn. Senior personnel in his scary-pathetic band of acolytes are the fanatical Brother Swan (Ned Dennehy) and groveling, witchy Mother Marlene (Olwen Foure.)

One glance was enough for Jeremiah to decide Swan & co. must “get that girl I saw” for the Master’s pleasure and spiritual fulfillment. A demonic biker gang whose members resemble “Hellraiser” creatures is summoned, breaking into the protagonists’ hippie-crafted home to abduct Mandy. Once captured, she’s dosed with psychedelics and introduced to the tribe. However, her response to Jeremiah’s assumed magnificence proves less than properly worshipful. Stung, he turns his wrath on the couple, with Red forced to witness his true love’s demise.

Though amply trippy, this first act is fairly poker-faced in its use of rich atmospherics and the frighteningly berserk villains. But once a left-for-dead Red manages to free himself from quasi-crucifixion, “Mandy” develops a devilish sense of humor and over-the-top excess well suited to one of Cage’s classic wild-man turns. Generally coated in gore, flaunting a range of weapons from chainsaw to crossbow to hand-forged ritual axe, his crazed avenger hunts down the perps, starting with the not-quite-human motorcycle gang and then proceeding through the ranks of Jeremiah’s “church.”

In terms of disorientating techniques, Cosmatos throws in everything but the kitchen sink, from filters to superimpositions to strobing — adding great gobs of post-production effects to the already arresting widescreen images of DP Benjamin Loeb and the contributions of production designer Hubert Pouille and other key design collaborators. There are even brief animated sequences in a “Heavy Metal” idiom, by Paris-based Banjo Studio. The soundtrack is equally highly worked, though dominated by Oscar-nommed Icelandic composer Johann Johansson’s original score, which sports a variety of textures apt for a movie that often feels like a vintage prog-metal concept album illustrated.

All this should be too much of a good thing, particularly at two full hours’ length. But Cosmatos’ control over his array of stylistic devices is orchestral, even if the story content is gleefully trashy. The eventual fountains of blood and other splatter effects are deliberately over-the-top, underlining that this sophomore feature, though impressively creepy at times, has a degree of self-mocking fun that the more pretentious “Rainbow” lacked.

Beyond Cage at his inventively manic best, there’s an almost unrecognizable Riseborough hitting intriguingly odd notes as the offbeat love interest, while the members of Jeremiah’s warped posse are individualily perverse in ways that recall the “Mad Max” universe. “Mandy” has so many enjoyably whacked-out elements, it comes as an actual surprise that Barry Manilow’s titular 1974 No. 1 hit is not among them.

Film Review: 'Mandy'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Midnight), Jan. 20, 2018. Running time: 121 MIN.

Production: (Belgium-U.S.) A Piccadilly Pictures in association with Son Capitol presentation of a Spetrevision, UMedia and XYZ Films production. (International sales: XYZ, Los Angeles.) Producers: Adrian Politowski, Martin Metz, Nate Bolotin, Daniel Noah, Josh C. Waller, Elijah Wood. Executive producers: Nick Spicer, Maxime Cottray, Todd Brown, Christopher Figg, Robert Whitehouse, Nadia Khamlichi, Lisa Whalen. Co-producer: Peter Bevan.

Crew: Director: Panos Cosmatos. Screenplay: Cosmatos, Aaron Stewart-Ahn. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Benjamin Loeb. Editor: Brett W. Bachman. Music: Johann Johannsson.

With: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouere, Richard Brake, Bill Duke.

More Film

  • Black Panther

    'Black Panther,' 'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Westworld' Among Costume Designers Guild Winners

    “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” walked away with top honors at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards Tuesday night, the final industry guild show before the Oscars on Feb. 24. “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” are up for the Oscar this year, along with “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “Mary Poppins [...]

  • WGA Writers Contract Talks

    Talent Agents, WGA Achieve Progress in Second Round of Talks

    Hollywood talent agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved some progress at their second negotiating session over agency regulations, according to sources close to the talks. The two sides met Tuesday, two weeks after their first meeting resulted in both sides criticizing each other, followed by the WGA holding a trio of spirited [...]

  • Aaron Paul

    Film News Roundup: Aaron Paul Honored by Sun Valley Film Festival

    In today’s film news roundup, Aaron Paul is honored, Bruce Berman is re-upped at Village Roadshow, and Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher get a book deal. FESTIVAL HONORS The Sun Valley Film Festival has selected Idaho native and three-time Emmy winner Aaron Paul as the winner of its Pioneer Award, presented by Variety for his [...]

  • Olivia Munn]EMILY'S List Pre-Oscars Brunch, Inside,

    Olivia Munn Says Brett Ratner Called Her Before His 'Howard Stern' Apology

    Olivia Munn is setting the record straight about standing up to “Rush Hour” director Brett Ratner, whom she alleges sexually harassed her over a decade ago. During a panel discussion at the Emily’s List pre-Oscars brunch at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills Tuesday morning, Munn revealed that Ratner called her in 2011 after he denied [...]

  • Flesh Out review

    Berlin Film Review: 'Flesh Out'

    Ignore the awful English-language title: “Flesh Out” is an emotionally rich, sensitively made film about a young woman in Mauritania forced to gain weight in order to conform to traditional concepts of well-rounded beauty before her impending marriage. Strikingly registering the sensations of a protagonist living between the dutiful traditions of her class and the [...]

  • Marighella review

    Berlin Film Review: 'Marighella'

    Does Brazil need a film that openly advocates armed confrontation against its far-right government? That’s the first question that needs to be asked when discussing “Marighella,” actor Wagner Moura’s directorial debut focused on the final year in the life of left-wing insurrectionist Carlos Marighella during Brazil’s ruthless military dictatorship. For whatever one might think of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content