Impressions: Mandy

Mandy is the latest Nicolas Cage film, brought to us by director Panos Cosmatos and several producers including Elijah Wood. It’s hard to box this film into one genre because horror, action, thriller, simply messed up art film, all seem to fit the bill. The movie had an incredibly limited release and was mostly a VOD, but the response has been rather positive and a bit shocking. I finally got the chance to experience it for myself, and I struggle for words.

The movie is set in 1983 and follows a logger, Nicolas Cage, and his lover Mandy, an artist. There is little backstory given for either, instead a series of moments that shows their relationship. They both seem to be a bit tortured, but Red (Cage) seems especially caught in Mandy’s orbit. Most of their interactions are him learning about and focused on her.

One day as Mandy walks through the woods she passes by a van. We later find that the van is filled with members of a cult, the leader of which becomes obsessed with Mandy.

Without giving too many spoilers, the cult tracks them down, and Red suddenly goes on a revenge mission. You can guess the larger picture of what happens (it’s a trope we’ve all seen before), but the details are worth tuning in for. It is also worth mentioning that this movie does a brilliant job at limiting violence against women. Considering the plot and the fact that it flirts with, if not is horror, it could have easily slipped into an uncomfortable place. Mandy seems to take a concerted effort to flip the script and the focus of the violence. That is not to say there is no violence with women, just that it does not overly focus on it.

I digress. Red, who has been sober, falls into a world of alcohol, drugs, and violence, wanting only one thing.

The movie itself is pretty standard in its plot. Red goes through a series of people trying to find the person ultimately responsible for his pain, the journey… is a bit odd.

Mandy is a film I struggle to define in simply one way or another. It has a lot going on, and to be honest, it’s less of a movie and more of an experience. (Believe me, I groaned myself when I typed that out.) I don’t mean that in some snobby way, but that there is something about it that speaks to the idea overall. It’s creepy and tense like a horror film. It’s oddly hilarious. It has fast-paced violent sequences like an action film. It has moments heavily focused on color and “the shot” like an art film. It is as times straight out of an 80s metal video. All of this happens and oddly works together. It is also approachable, in that it pushes the boundaries but never goes “too far,” yet will remain a movie that a bit too odd for part of the audience.

It is a fantastic, brutal, trippy, and blood covered ride, and there are a lot of people that will love this film, myself being one of them. I can’t put exactly into words what I liked about this movie other than it simply entertained me, but I know I walked away from it satisfied and wanting to watch it again.

The elephant in the room is of course, and always will be, Nicolas Cage. He’s had a hell of a career filled with highs and lows. I never liked him as much as others did at his height, but I never disliked him in his lows. Cage has this odd sort of quality where he can be entirely off-putting yet still likable. He will sometimes deliver an average performance, but it can’t be seen as average because the Cage factor is there. Mandy was an excellent film for him. He never overacted, but his “Cage” quality in high drama worked perfectly for a tortured man. He has very few lines and mostly is just present, and it’s pretty much perfect for him. Cage is an actor you can’t ignore, playing a primarily silent but overwhelming leading man is kind of his wheelhouse. He is also perfect in delivering the oddly funny lines that break up this intense movie.

So bottom line? I have none. It’s a delightfully fucked up movie. It’s weird, it’s artistic, it’s 80s metal, it’s creepy, it’s tense, I loved it but can’t explain why. It’s terrible to leave an impressions this way, but odds are you will like it or you won’t. I would caution people that don’t like odd films away. Otherwise, I get why the reaction is overwhelmingly positive, but also understand why people might not like it.

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