Nicholas Cage always has something he has to pay off so it's guaranteed that he's going to show up in another movie at some point. Whether there is any quality to that movie is usually the question, since he has done almost as many paycheck films as Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer. Some of those have been great despite themselves, even if I may be one of the few fans of Drive Angry. He's still a good actor so he is able to at least bring something to even the most trite film he contributes to.
I wouldn't say Mandy is trite, but Cage does bring some emotional heft that is needed. After he loses the titular Mandy his breakdown scene is amazingly realistic. To some it may be typical crazy Cage acting - and, in fact, there is plenty of that in Mandy - but here one can really experience how the character, Red, feels about losing the love of his life. At that point director Panos Cosmatos stops using all his little color tricks and just puts Cage in a bathroom with bad wallpaper and a bottle of vodka to truly get everything out of his system before going on his path of revenge. It's such a well-done scene that it's a pity it's stuck in such a terrible movie.
Red and Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) live an ideal life in an isolated home in the Shadow Mountains. Red works as a lumberjack while Mandy is an artist with a penchant for reading fantasy novels and earns a little extra money at a local store. One day while walking along the road she is spotted by cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) who decides to that she is to be his chosen one. With the help of his right-hand man Brother Swan (Ned Dennehy) Jeremiah calls forth a demonic, acid-riddled biker gang to kidnap Mandy and get Red out of the way.
Jeremiah's attempt to convert Mandy doesn't go as planned so, in anger, he has her brutally murdered in front of Red, who is tied to a tree with barbed wire. After the cult leaves Red frees himself, retrieves his favorite crossbow from his friend Caruthers (Bill Duke), forges a silver pole axe and then starts his revenge against the bikers. That path soon leads to the cult's lair, where, guided by Mandy's memory, Red begins to work his way toward Jeremiah.
I was concerned throughout that I was going to get a Brazil ending without getting a Brazil-quality movie. Other than the scene with Red after he has freed himself and had to deal with Mandy's death, one of the few good things about this movie is that, as strange and pretentious as it is, the events at least happen. The only other scene of note is when Mandy, though drugged and in shock, hilariously rejects Sand's offer to join the cult.
Otherwise, Panos Cosmatos may know how to make a movie look good, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good movie. Too much of the dialog near the beginning is whispered and difficult to hear and, honestly, if I want to hear King Crimson I have most of their albums and don't need people mumbling mediocre dialog to enjoy it. In fact, if I want to hear King Crimson used well in a movie, I can always rewatch Children of Men, which is so much better than this film could ever be. I mention this because so many reviewers went gaga over hearing "Starless", even if nothing is really even happening when it plays.
Most of the movie uses red and purple filters, largely to display either emotional states or represent the influence of psychedelic drugs. Otherwise, some scenes are so dark as to not be able to see any action going on, while others that would be promising in other films just fall flat. My complaint about the bikers is similar to that of the recent Hellraiser, but even more so as none of the designs, besides spikes, can be seen, and there is so much processing on their voices that it's incomprehensible without captioning. Then there is the fact that Cosmatos drags every single shot out as long as possible, stretching barely 80 minutes of story into two hours.
I can see why a lot of people really want this to be a good movie. It has some great concepts, it has both crazy Cage and amazing actor Cage, and it is filmed like a movie of great artistic importance. Problem is, it's not. At the heart is a simple revenge film, and everything else is just either pretentious wankery or, like most French films with horror or action elements, too embarrassed by them to present them plainly. Either way it's a long slog that doesn't even have the weird, dreamlike quality of even the worst of David Lynch's work to rescue it.
Time: 121 minutes
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache
Director: Panos Cosmatos