Mandy is a bizarre, psychedelic-fueled ride that will test your patience at parts, and reward your patience at others. Red Miller (Nicholas Cage), and his partner/girlfriend Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) live an idyllic life in the ‘Shadow Mountains’. That is, until, they cross paths with a small religious cult headed by a self-prophetic leader, Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache). Jeremiah claims he is the god of all things in the universe, and upon seeing Mandy, wants to assumedly recruit or enslave her into being apart of his ‘society’. Things go awry for the couple when Red is left for dead. On a quest of revenge and vengeance, Red encounters four-horsemen-like leather clad bikers, chainsaw battles, and blackish goo that causes us, and Red, to truly question his sanity. Mandy isn’t really a movie about plots, more so about the atmospheric experience that director Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) is crafting through distinctive imagery in the movie. The movie feels as though an 80’s metal band’s album cover has come to life, and also implicates other 80’s memorabilia and nostalgia along with it. The revenge formula is there, but one can find themselves wondering what else Cosmatos is communicating through the silver screen.
The problem with this is that it’s easy to lose viewership along the way, as some people will either stay for the journey that is ‘Mandy’, or check out wondering what kind of art-house bullshit they decided to watch. While both phantasmal and engaging at parts, Panos seems to leave story elements behind for the sake of visual stimuli and creative decision-making. The possibility of connecting with the movie essentially relies on whether or not this movie’s atmosphere engaged you or not. The overall plot is minimalist, campy, and basic, so the performances the actors give can really be sharp and cutting at times. For example, Nicholas Cage goes full ‘Rage-Cage’ towards the middle and end of the movie, and it really plays to some of the better qualities that this movie has. This movie almost seems designed for the modern-day stigma that Cage carries with him, and he plays into those facets in a remarkably beautiful way. Cage fully embraces the insanity of the film, and I believe that it’s one of its biggest strengths. Mandy, a campy 80’s revenge movie never seems to belittle the viewer or make fun of what’s happening onscreen so much as praise the absurdity of what this movie is.
There is a film trapped within this fever dream that only takes a third of the time to deliver the same results, but Cosmatos’ sheer love and indulgence seems to hinder it in some ways. The score of the film (Johan Johannsson) is varied and musically diverse. He draws from the metal influences on this film and creates a sonic backcloth suitable for a film as brazen and distinctive as Mandy. If you can appreciate what this movie is, and not what it could’ve been, it is quite a fun ride. Following the crazy unconventional nature of the film and not as much of the plot and characters still left me to be intrigued and interested in what the film had to say. If you can’t, this movie is definitely one to let slide and maybe not labor through the runtime that hinders it. This criticism may sound discriminating based upon the nature and dreamlike state that film takes place in, but I do believe that even in dreams we tend to flesh out more story and shape to an image. Mandy is a dream with a loose plot structure, impeccable images, and even more remarkable feelings, and that can end up being some of its pitfalls. I do enjoy the strange, but almost wish the strangeness were more connected.