TL;DR – This is a film that is all about the style, and if you dig it you find it to be one of the best movies ever, or like me you if you don’t, well then it turns out to be a dull frustrating mess
Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a post-credit thing, but you don’t need to stay for it
Warning – There are several scenes that have extensive strobe effects
Style is something that can make or break a film for people, it is one of the reasons that you tend to see a lot of dull monotonous films pumped out, desperately trying to be something for everyone. So in this regards, I deeply respect Mandy, for in no way playing it safe, and committing to its style like there is no tomorrow with a full line-up of sex, violence, and nudity. Unfortunately, the style did not gel with me at all, so while I appreciate what the film was trying to do, I cannot say I found it to be a particularly good film at all.
So to set the scene, we open in on Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) who works as a logger up in the Shadow Mountains of California in the 1980s. As he uses Chekhov’s chainsaw we see a straightforward, yet rewarding life because at the end of the day he gets to go home to his cabin in the woods with the love of his life Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), an artist by night and cashier at a local gas station by day. They live a comfortable life, but both of them are haunted by the demons of their past, which gets put into the spotlight when the cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) of the Children of the New Dawn comes to town and becomes infatuated with Mandy. This leads to tragedy and Red has to face both his past and his future as his world falls apart.
I mentioned right from the start that Mandy has a particular style that it employs, and boy does it double down on it. From the aspect ratio, the film grain, the scene transitions, the colour grading, everything is invoking that Grindhouse style. While it is clear that a lot of this was achieved in post-production, it is also clear that a lot of care and attention went into crafting every detail and it is not like someone just clicked a noise filter on Premiere and went home for the day. All of this is wonderfully highlighted by what is sadly Jóhann Jóhannsson’s final every musical score. I still have not really come to terms with the fact that I will never hear any more new work from him again unless they release what he was working on from Blade Runner 2049. As well as this, the film would not be what it is without the fantastic casting of Nicolas Cage who is in his element as the mild-mannered man with a past that slips into madness when faced with the cruel reality of it all.
However, while this is all interesting for me it was a case of style over substance. So as we progressed through the film I had the chance to look around at the audience that all came out at 9 pm for the one night/one session only screening the film got near me. About half of the audience was deeply enraptured with what was going on, and the other half were like me board wondering when it would all end. That shifted somewhat when the carnage of the final act started, but even here people were laughing at what was going on which I don’t think was the intent of the filmmakers. As I was watching it I could not help but think back to another similar film mother! (see review) because I think I walked out of both films with the exact same feeling. Both of these films had a long build-up where the intensity was kept at maximum, there were no ebbs and flows, only a broken fire hydrant at full tilt. This meant that by the time the third act carnage finally unfolded I had already been emotionally worn out. I didn’t find Red’s descent into hell to be engrossing or even humorous, it was a frustrating end to a dull movie, and this is with all the gore, sex, nudity, and violence going on.
In the end, do we recommend Mandy? Well no, I can’t. Look everything I have explained might be right up your alley, in which case go for it. But I did not walk out of that theatre being entertained or even engaged, and while I did appreciate the craftsmanship on display, that can only get you so far.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Mandy
Directed by – Panos Cosmatos
Story by – Panos Cosmatos
Screenplay by – Panos Cosmatos & Aaron Stewart-Ahn
Music by – Jóhann Jóhannsson
Cinematography by – Benjamin Loeb
Edited by – Brett W. Bachman
Starring – Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouéré, Richard Brake, Bill Duke, Line Pillet, Clément Baronnet, Alexis Julemont & Stephan Fraser
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 18A; Germany: 18; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 18; United States: not rated