Mandy is a 2018 film by Panos Cosmatos (he has cinema in his DNA: his father George P. Cosmatos directed, among other things, The Cassandra Crossing in 1976 and Tombstone in 1993) starring Nicolas Cage and Andrea Riseborough. I wanted to see this movie since I went to the Sitges Festival two years ago (to see John Carpenter in concert, as I wrote on this blog) and I finally did! And it didn’t disappoint me, it’s a great movie! Why? I’ll explain it below. For the record: in Sitges it got Cosmatos the prize for best director.
Mandy is a revenge movie. It’s a sub-genre of action films that has illustrious exponents such as John Wick (2014) and Oldboy (2003) or, to go further back in time, The Crow (1994) and Mad Max (1979), just to name a few. As you know if you’ve seen any of these movies, the plot is usually very simple: someone dear to the protagonist is killed and so the only thing left for him to do is to slaughter all those responsible until the thirst for revenge is satisfied. I would add that most of the films in this vein are pure rubbish, sometimes even reactionary and unbearable, like Commando (1985) or Collateral Damage (2003). But Mandy is not, far from it!
The plot in two words: Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) and Red (Nicolas Cage) are a couple in love who live peacefully in an isolated house in a forest. One day, Jeremiah (Linus Roache), the leader of a para-religious sect (the Children of the New Dawn), and his henchmen pass by with their vehicle and see Mandy (with her wonderful Black Sabbath shirt). Jeremiah falls in love with her and decides to kidnap her (with the help of three black and mysterious bikers), drug her, and allow her to make love with him. But Mandy laughs at him and pays hard for this lack of respect: she’s burned alive in front of the impotent Red. Hurt, but determined to take revenge, Red will start his revenge journey immediately.
Panos Cosmatos’ movies cannot leave you indifferent. The whole first part of this film in which Red and Mandy simply go on with their lives is full of splendid and poetic images in which everything seems like a dream. The colors are completely unnatural, the skies are like paintings, the house of the two is inconceivably lit with red, yellow, blue and green, multiple lens flares show everything as if behind some filters… For example, there’s a scene in which the two have a surreal dialogue lying in bed with red lights alternating with complete darkness for no apparent reason. With the arrival of the sect (Charles Manson-style), the colors become even more intense, with red starting to dominate everything up to the scene of Mandy’s murder. Immediately afterwards, things settle down a bit, with Red coldly organizing his revenge (thanks to his friend Caruthers played by the legendary Bill Duke who starred in Predator, 1987), before the final ride towards the devastating ending.
In all this, there’s room for:
- Red forges an axe made entirely of metal that has the same shape as the F of the logo of Celtic Frost, a Swiss metal group;
- Red and one of the sect fight each other brandishing two chainsaws as if they were swords;
- Red takes a shower in the blood of those responsible for the death of his beloved;
- Red sniffs a mountain of cocaine immediately after trying an acid that can completely burn people’s brains;
- a reference to the mythical Heavy Metal (1981) in one of the animated sequences where Mandy finds a green shiny object.
Despite what may seems from this brief description, the movie is anything but stupid. First of all, the revenge doesn’t lead to a happy ending: Red at the end of the movie is completely mad, he has visions of Mandy and of the world she was reading about in her book at the beginning of the film. As with George Miller’s Max, the inhumanity of the murders leads to madness, not to happiness or peace. Then, this movie is visually unique and masterfully crafted (what a cinematography! And the colors!). And the soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson is splendid and is also enhanced by the use at the beginning of the splendid song Starless by King Crimson (taken from the 1974 album titled, and it’s no coincidence, Red). Too bad Jóhannsson then died last year by ingesting a dose of cocaine probably similar to the one we saw in the movie…
In short, for me this film is amazing. I’ve read a number of reviews about it and I realize that I’m probably in the tiny minority of people praising it, and it’s a shame. This is one of those rare times in which Nicolas Cage has worked on a worthy project and has committed himself to acting decently! But enough on Cage, let’s leave him alone… I suggest you to look for and watch Mandy if the genre inspires you: it reminded me a little of Climax (2018), that actually won the prize as best movie at the same Sitges Festival I mentioned above, but I found it better, more solid. Ciao!