Review| Mandy

Review| Mandy

A Latin proverb states, “revenge is a confession of pain.” While there is little evidence to find the origin of this quote or prove it is actually Latin, the axiom is true enough apart from its suspicious attribution. Revenge is often a pushback to the pain inflicted on us, real or perceived, and expresses something far deeper than achieving “eye for an eye”. In it’s most violent form in the taking of a life, there is a created need in all of us to right injustice. When a murder occurs, in the words of God in Genesis, “[the] blood is crying to me from the ground.”
Director Panos Cosmatos’ sophomore feature film, Mandy, is an exploration of this confession of pain and injustice through an odyssey of revenge. Tinted in a blurry kaleidoscope of pinks and purples, it feels like, to borrow slightly from Reel World contributor Blaine Grimes, a crazy amalgam of Nicolas Winding Refn, David Lynch, and 80’s action movies–of which Cosmatos’ father, George, directed (Cobra and Rambo II). Included in this insane psychotropic soup is everyone’s favorite scene chewer, Nic Cage. All these elements add up to something akin to a 2-hour Homeric saga if the Greek poet had lived and made movies in Hollywood in the late 1960’s and hung out with Charles Manson.
In one sense it is an epic of love. Cage plays Red Miller, a lumberjack in the neck of the woods of pre-grunge Kurt Cobain; the forests of rural 1980’s Washington. Married to the cultic-obsessed artist Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough), Red and Mandy live a seemingly serene lifestyle in the verdant forests of the Pacific Northwest. This opening twenty-ish minutes are an ethereal, poetic, and immensely beautiful magenta-tinged romance. Red and Mandy share a simple, unadorned love that is comfortable poking fun and watching B-movie horror.
Their serenity is broken when a crazed cult leader, Jeremiah Sands (Linus Roache), espies Mandy in passing, he and his “Children of the New Dawn” bring sheer terror to Mandy and Red’s tranquil cabin by the lake by summoning an LSD-crazed biker gang of spikey-clad demon men. The atrocities committed by this horde of cultic and drug-crazed maniacs leave Red bruised, broken, and bent on hunting them down one-by-one. Grabbing a crossbow and smelting his own wicked awesome battleax, Red ventures forth into the forest and like an unquenching fire rains down death and destruction on those who participated in the savagery. His revenge is best served flaming hot.
It only gets weirder and crazier from there, with the standout scene being Red’s chainsaw fight with one of the cult followers, which Cosmatos admitted was the primary action set piece when developing the film. It pulses with energy amidst a swirling fog and the brazen insanity of a movie starring Sly Stallone or Kurt Russell. It ends about how you would expect a chainsaw fight to end, with Cage attaching his chainsaw to a thick chain and slinging it like a Mad Maxian David hacking down an LSD-stoned Goliath. His blazed trail ends in the cavernous, crypt-like church of Jeremiah Sands and the end of his odyssey blazes with Christian, cultic, and spiritualist imagery seemingly plucked from the mind of Charles Manson.
*very spoily spoilers for Mandy in this next paragraph*

In this final sequence, Jeremiah begs for his life as Red exacts his final revenge. At first, he begs for his life, then pontificates to Red he is truly the one in charge, only to be left sniveling while Cage’s Red growls, “I’m your God now!” His bloody mission complete, he imagines Mandy seated next to him as the whiteness of his eyes and teeth are juxtaposed against his bloodied, mangled visage. What little the movie has done to apply any sort of moral fiber to this fiery, sanguine tale can possibly be summed up in the last minute. His journey complete, we are left to contemplate what has been avenged and is it worth what he has become. If revenge is the confession of pain, Red is the avenging angel paying the blood price for what has cried out from the ground. What he has become as a result is left to the viewer to decide if his feral grin is one of gleeful payback or a surrender to madness.
*okay, back to non-spoiler stuff*
Overall, Mandy is bizarre, serpentine, and dazzling. It avoids much of what can plague the revenge B-movie genre of today while still gleefully dancing in its tropes and tricks. Director of Photography Benjamin Loeb has created something singularly artful in director Cosmatos’ cranked up vision. Cage is at his Cage-iest, Riseborough is oddly alluring, and the cast of oddities in the biker gang and Children of the New Dawn is terrifying yet fragile. This movie will not be for everyone nor will it even be liked by the majority of people but for those who enjoy the mixture of beauty and pain, Mandy will swirl around in your brain like a mystifying lucid dream.

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