Mandy – Film Review

Director: Panos Cosmatos

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy and Richard Brake

Rating: ★★★

There are not a lot of recent films starring Nicolas Cage that have received critical acclaim. Most of his recent outings have been strange, independent films that have received at best a mixed response. Always looking for something different Cage has starred in a wide range of films. Mandy, released in 2018, is something different and has also won Cage a lot of acclaim and recognition.  

Mandy is a slow-burn horror film, about Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough, The Death of Stalin, Birdman and Oblivion) and her partner Red Miller (Cage, Leaving Las Vegas, National Treasure and Vampire’s Kiss). After being spotted by a cult leader, Mandy is kidnapped and burned alive in front of a bound Red. This in turn leads to a revenge story, where Red fuelled by the anger of his dead girlfriend hunts down the cult and kills them. It’s not an original story in any sense and has been told in many variations. What makes Mandy unique is the way it’s presented.

Panos Cosmatos has created a visually stunning version of this time old revenge tale. It’s a dream-like, drug induced trip of a film and the cinematography by Benjamin Loeb deserves a lot of praise. This film is a masterpiece to look at. The colours are bright and vivid, there is beautiful animation spliced in throughout. Most frames can be singled out as a work of art.

The problem with Mandy is that below this incredibly stylish front is a very cliched story that is stretched out at least half an hour too long. Running at almost exactly 2 hours, Mandy feels a lot longer. It takes an hour to really get going and even when it does, you’ve seen it before and it’s not exciting. It looks nice while it’s on, but there isn’t anything beyond that. It’s slow and the film really suffers for it. It’s completely style over substance and unfortunately the style, while greatly presented, isn’t enough to carry the film and make this a must see.

On top of the amazing visuals is a great score, beating away in the background. It feels very unsettling and adds to the visuals to create an unhinged film. At times this works well, and while it never reaches high it is creepy and weird enough to at least have moments of tense scares. The effects are also great, adding to the great visuals. The scene where Mandy is burned alive, inside a flailing bag, is horrific and you can see the pain on Cage’s face. He is giving one hell of a performance here. There is no phoning it in, he is on full force. It may not be the craziest Cage performance ever, but it’s entertaining and at least does something to keep the run time interesting.

You can’t help but appreciate Mandy for being an ambitious film, it’s really stylised with a dark retro-neon look. The music and performances are all great. The gore effects look brilliant. It’s just that the thin plot and the way too long run time makes this hard to properly engage with. Even with Cage’s great performance you’ll leave this film feeling cold and disinterested in the characters. There is a chainsaw duel, which is probably better than the one in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, but there’s not enough fun in the action to keep it exciting. It’s not strange enough to really make you think twice about what you’re seeing, like a David Lynch film would.

It boils down to a story you’ve probably seen quite a few times before, told in a very unique and stylised way. It’s artsy and ambitious, but ultimately hollow and boring. If it was cut by half an hour and believe me there is at least half an hour that can be cut, then this would be a lot better.  

About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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7 Responses to Mandy – Film Review

  1. nscovell says:

    I love Mandy and had a blast watching it… three times. I wish more movies could be met with such style and insanity.

    • There definitely aren’t many films with this kind of style. Hopefully the director goes on to make more films. I haven’t seen his other film, Beyond the Black Rainbow yet, but will be searching it out.

  2. rdfranciswriter says:

    I agree. Mandy is loaded with style and insanity . . . but it is a wee-bit long. But when considering the many films Nic Cage has done recently, most of questionable quality, this one is a true winner.

    • Haha. That is a good point. Cage is my mum’s favourite actor, so I’ve sat through a lot of the recent poor ones.

      He has a new one coming out next year called The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, where he plays himself. I hope that one will be a good one.

      • rdfranciswriter says:

        Wow. Thanks for that tip. It sounds like a cross between JCVD (Jean-Claude plays himself and parodies his action persona) and Nic’s own Adaptation. I’ve Googled and bookmarked it. By the way, if you come over to our site, B&S About Movies, search for “Nic Cage Bitch.” It features reviews of over two-dozen of his films — so we know what you mean about sitting through some questionable ones. I just did Left Behind, myself, for an upcoming review.

      • I’ll have a look. I don’t remember thinking much to Left Behind, but it’s been a long time. Look forward to reading it

      • rdfranciswriter says:

        Thanks! Oh, Left Behind is a hoot.

        Samuel L. Jackson gets snakes. The ‘Cage gets laundry: “Get this wrinkled, dirty laundry off my gosh darn plane.”

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