“Raising Arizona” gave Nicolas Cage the role of his lifetime.
That lifetime came before he segued into a B-movie star for hire.
Along comes “Mandy,” and Cage is firmly in his newer, more outlandish element. Don’t pretend you don’t know the “element” in question. Wide eyed. Easily startled. Prone to maniacal laughter one moment, a torrent of tears the next.
That’s the role “Mandy” hand delivers. Is it a shock to say Cage crushes it?
Cage is Red Miller, a Pacific Northwest rebel circa 1983. He and his wife, Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough, “Battle of the Sexes”) live apart from society while clinging to each other. She reads fantasy novels while he savors every moment of his time with her.
Awww, even though it’s a little icky.
Director Panos Cosmatos (“Beyond the Black Rainbow”) captures their lives in assured, albeit campy, sequences. That ends when Mandy catches the eye of a local cult leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) who demands she join in oddball harem. He won’t take no for an answer, unleashing the kind of bizarre filmmaking last seen in the loosey goosey ’70s.
Only she has an avenging angel on her side. Revenge is a dish best served by Cage.
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Cosmatos trots out whatever darn well pleases him to energize “Mandy.” Those indulgences include animated snippets, unexpected title cards, supernatural stuffing and unexpected regalia. There’s a reason a simple revenge tale lasts a good two hours.
He can’t stop himself. Nor can Cage.
It all sounds …. terrible. It’s actually mesmerizing in its own freaky fashion. Let’s start with the whole, “where will this madness go next” motif. Then there’s Cage himself, bloodied from head to toe and rarin’ for battle.
What’s not to love?
You could say there’s an actual love story here, too. Somehow vengeance seems far more important once Mandy’s capture takes place. Cage manages to keep the bond alive through all the blood, muck and gore.
That’s acting … even if it’s the kind Oscar voters watch while holding their noses.
The sub-villains, who all bow to Jeremiah, take turns over-acting. It’s the oddest element of the film, as if they know “Mandy” is cult classic bound and they all want to leave the largest impression.
Good luck. No one out does Cage in full Cage mode. Isn’t that what we’ve been waiting for all this time?
Sure, he’ll dabble in the occasional A-list project like “Snowden.” You’re still more likely to see him in films with single-word names (“Outcast,” “Arsenal,” “Next”) or pure pulp.
“Mandy” acknowledges his rebooted persona sans apology.
The film’s gore is gratuitous at first, and then Cosmatos really cranks up the fake blood. A few images genuinely shock, or at least linger beyond the next visual assault.
Those assaults come at us like waves in the film’s second half, an apology for the pokey prologue.
FAST FACT: Nicolas Cage said he had to shower for a full hour every night while shooting “Mandy’s” blood-soaked sequences.
Is there a deeper meaning to “Mandy?” Are we witnessing a clumsy attack on organized religion? A commentary on how we can never keep society at bay no matter how hard we try? Is the ’80s setting a reflection on a decade in which conformity mattered more than individualism?
Maybe. Perhaps. Sure. Why not? Who knows? It doesn’t really matter.
Learn more about the villain of @panoscosmatos‘ new film Mandy. Here’s his theme song and his life story. Jeremiah Sand; he puts the “vile” in “evil.” https://t.co/Bjc5ipPUN7 @MandyTheFilm #Mandy @LakeshoreRecs pic.twitter.com/nWFe1EbxV9
— John Bergin (@JBXX) June 28, 2018
The great Bill Duke shows up briefly, serving as our Expository Guide while adding his gravitas to a production that demands it.
“Mandy” reaches out a hand and invites you on a ride unlike anything else being produced today. That blast of original vision sure is welcome. So is Cage, an actor embracing his inner artist without a care in the world.
HiT or Miss: “Mandy” is over the top in ways only an actor like Nicolas Cage could call his own. You’ve been warned.