Love It or Hate It: Mandy is a Unique Film
There is a scene in Mandy, where Nicolas Cage decapitates a demon biker, the head catches on fire, then Cage picks up a cigarette and lights it with the flame. I cannot, in good conscience, give a movie a negative review when that happens in it.
It wouldn't be too hard, though, to give this movie somewhere around two stars. It takes it's sweet time setting up a pretty simple story. Red Miller (Cage) and his wife Mandy live a nice, quiet life in the forest. Red works as a logger and Mandy has a job in a general store. They spend their nights eating in front of the tv and watching Night Beast. Their life is disrupted, though, when a cult of backwoods hippies shows up. What they do makes Nicolas Cage angry, and he's about to run around screaming with a chainsaw while metal plays. Its all shot beautifully, showcasing director Panos Cosmatos skill in setting a mood. His use of colors and ambient sound tell the audience everything they need to know about the emotional subtext behind a scene. His direction is technically impressive, but, after awhile, it suffers from 'Natural Born Killers' syndrome, becoming indulgent and long-winded.
Look, there is a reason why this movie was so heavily anticipated. Critics and reporters were going on about what a great role Nick Cage plays and how many legendary freak-outs he has (it lived up to the hype). The thing is, the first half of the movie contains none of that, which would be okay if the movie didn't clock in at a two hour runtime. There is a definite switch, though, at the midway point. All of a sudden, it has the feel of a completely different movie: the movie everyone wanted to see. And, when the madness starts, any boredom you may have felt earlier is erased. The score changes to a droning, doom metal guitar. Cage is drinking an entire bottle of vodka and screaming. He runs around fighting hippies with giant chainsaws and squeezing people's heads until their eyes pop out. Its amazing. Not to mention, the extremely bold directing style starts to fit the film way better.
It is funny—and maybe a little unfortunate—that Mandy tries to be taken as a serious art film in the first half but it best affects the audience when its being a tongue-in-cheek, brazen action flick. Mandy could have definitely benefited from being cut down to a runtime of about an hour and a half and focusing on what it does best. This movie caters to a specific audience: mostly men who love over-the-top action and are fans of Nick Cage. The artful first half isn't gaining it any more fans. Its hard to believe I'm saying this about a movie made in 2018, but I think Mandy is an example of a director that's gone mad with power.