Nicolas Cage as Red in the action, thriller film “MANDY” an ELEVATION Films release. Photo courtesy of ELEVATION Films.

Using brilliantly ominous visuals and an amazingly unsettling musical score, Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy serves up a simple story that isn’t on the same level of competence as those technical achievements.  Cage and Andrea Riseborough (The Death of Stalin) play Red and Mandy, a soft-spoken bohemian couple who are suddenly captured and tortured by a travelling crew of cultists.  When his girlfriend is kidnapped and used as a pawn for a “special” ritual, Red has no other desire than to get revenge.

The first half of Mandy is a bit of a conceited buzzkill considering the slow pace and the rambling self-importance of the script.  However, it’s effective due to Cosmatos’ ability to infiltrate his movie with hellish qualities;  slowly but surely tainting the ordinary lives of our protagonists.  Cage is also tied down at this point, allowing the actor to give a nuanced, loving performance as Red.  As soon as reality turns into a nightmare for Red, Cage – understandably – flies off the handle in a way that can only be described as “full Cage”.  Unfortunately, those dimensions he established beforehand are gone as Cosmatos directs him in a way that turns his character into an unidentifiable madman.  In the latter half of the film, the filmmaker gives up entirely and indulges in Nicolas Cage’s kooky on-screen reputations.  Red becomes a wailing cartoon, killing people in outrageous ways and carrying out reactions that are only present to convince viewers that a.) Cage is a bad-ass hero and b.) Panos Cosmatos can commit to his craziness.

Because the film is trying so hard to be cool and reckless, the novelty of Mandy wears off as each scene melts into the other, congealing this annoying movie into an incoherent and sluggish flick.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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