How is it that Mandy is the first Nicolas Cage movie I’ve seen at Sundance. I’ve only been coming for eight years and he was doing a lot of blockbusters in that time, but also a lot of indies that went to TIFF and Sundance. Well, it was worth the wait because Mandy is exactly the Sundance Midnight movie you’d expect from Cage and director Panos Cosmatos.
Red Miller (Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) live a peaceful existence in the Shadow Mountains. Cult leader Jeremiah (Linus Roache) sees Mandy out one day and sends his flock to grab her. His cenobite Road Warrior minions grab Red too and leave him to witness her torture.
The first half is a harrowing torture of this couple. In some ways, Mandy is more than Jeremiah can handle and that’s satisfying, but ultimately this couple is punished in a red fog lit hellscape akin to Cosmatos’ previous feature Beyond the Black Rainbow. It seems like it’s not reality, as traumatic events do feel nightmarish, but it isn’t ambiguous. You can sense a deep mythology to this cult, of which we only see glimpses but we know it’s there, and there is a pretty horrific fire torture.
The second half is the unleashed Cage you’re waiting for, and it’s smart to make you wait for it. Red screams for real in the aftermath of this ordeal. We have heard Cage scream on many occasions, for many reasons, both outlandish and vulnerable. This certainly sets a high bar for the sincere passion behind rage.
He forges a badass blade to go after the cult and wreaks bloody vengeance. Highlights include a neck wound pouring all over Red’s face and a chainsaw fight. Cage could hold his own with Bruce Campbell, Gunnar Hansen and Chow Yun-Fat as chainsaw warriors. In fact, that’s a really good idea. Someone should make that.
Mandy is an intense two hours. Cage and Riseborough are captivating actors so the buildup is compelling even when they’re just camping under the sky or watching ‘80s TV. The score is unrelenting, so none of your senses get a break from this evil. Cosmatos fulfills the promise of his first film and pushes his style to the next level.