Mandy (2018)

Review #1,613

Director:  Panos Cosmatos
Cast:  Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache
Plot:  The movie is set in the primal wilderness of 1983 where Red Miller, a broken and haunted man hunts an unhinged religious sect who slaughtered the love of his life.

Genre:  Horror / Thriller / Action
Awards:  Official Selection (Sundance). Directors' Fortnight (Cannes)
Runtime:  121 mins
Rating:  R21 (passed clean) for sexual scene and violence
International Sales:  XYZ
Singapore Distributor:  Shaw Organisation

Mandy is one of those bizarre films that comes our way once in a blue moon (at least into mainstream cinemas).  It would be to its disservice if one were to label it a horror, thriller or action movie.  It is a combination of all of them in some form or another at different junctures, but it never takes shape as a fully-fledged genre film.  

Instead, it is a cocoon, a work that develops within itself, and one that has startling internal aural-visual consistency.  It confidently builds its own world and aesthetics, maybe even logic, though one could say it is more of a dream logic.  Some critics have likened it to be a gonzo-style journey of phantasmagoria, stylistically exaggerated to breaking point and then some.  It’s as if a filmmaker like Nicolas Winding Refn or Gaspar Noe re-envisioned an ‘80s type revenge movie into an otherworldly, sensorial work that exists out of time.

The last I had seen Nicolas Cage on the big screen was Kick-Ass (2010), and judging by what has transpired over the last eight years i.e. the work he had been doing to presumably pay his never-ending debt, one could fairly if easily say that his performance in Mandy is his most indelible in many, many years.  

Playing Red Miller, a husband to a woman whom he loves deeply as they live in an idyllic spot in the American wilderness (the temporal setting is in 1983), Cage then becomes an unhinged man of vengeance when one fateful night, the love of his life is taken away by a sadistic religious cult and tortured to death in his presence.  

The film takes its time (in fact far too much time) to get the narrative going, and does likewise in its depiction of phantasmagoria.  In short, it is a 90-minute type movie stretched to two hours, and this intent to ‘drown’ the viewer in its cocoon can be felt as sensorially immersive (for folks who like their cinema thin on exposition and heavy in atmosphere) or overdrawn (yes, we get the message but how should we be feeling?).  

One might find Mandy as imaginative as it is pretentious, a stylistic exercise that evokes religious taboos (conservative Christians may deem it offensive), the brutality of Man and the tension between immorality and immortality.  The late Johann Johannsson’s music is quite the revelation in its exploration of dark, mystifying sounds, as if hallucinations could be translated musically.  But ultimately, Mandy is one head trip that goes on far too comfortably for too long.

Verdict:  Hyper-stylised in a psychedelic way, this senses-numbing work is as immersive as it is overdrawn.





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