‘Mandy’ is shocking, unapologetic and one of the best films of the year

Escape your film-watching cage with this hallucinogenic revenge flick


(Courtesy of Mandy Official Facebook page)

By Matt Martella, Collegian Correspondent

Panos Cosmatos’ newest project “Mandy” can be described in a variety of ways: a heavy-metal fairytale residing in a surrealist painting drawn by a demon, an epic tragedy exploring the fall of human innocence or simply a story of unbridled revenge exacted by a broken man. However you wish to interpret this film, it is undeniably a refreshing break in the monotonous cycle of generic movies that have swamped 2018 so far.

The plot of “Mandy” is bare-bones, almost to the detriment of the film, but the nuances I’ve come to love it for do not reside in the story, but in how the story is told. At a very basic level, “Mandy” is about a logger named Red Miller, played by the infamous Nicolas Cage, and his quest for revenge against an evil cult. If you are not yet intrigued, don’t worry. What sells the movie is not the plot that, at surface-level, seems banal; it’s the director. Cosmatos is brilliant with the imagery he creates. His use of ultra-violet colors mixed and mashed together create a magical world dripping with creativity. The scenes fluctuate seamlessly between those so horrifying one might think the movie took place in hell and scenes of genuine beauty, especially in its near-fantastical depiction of the wilderness. Cosmatos is clearly a filmmaker, meaning he values visual storytelling as much as he does dialogue, and some of the camera work and visual trickery he and his team manage to do are absolutely captivating. ‘Mandy’ is certainly a case where the crew behind the camera is as actively involved with the film as the cast in front of it, and they deserve appreciation for the meticulous beauty they have crafted throughout the film. At times, “Mandy” can feel like the theatrical version of listening to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’ in slow-motion and reverse, but it is this psychedelic overtone that kept me drawn into the movie and made up for where the script occasionally lacked.

The writing in “Mandy” is certainly unique, but the ambiguity in the dialogue can be confusing on first viewing and some of the monologues spoken by the cultists can grow disorienting and wander off in their own self-indulgence. The tone of the movie also switches quite jarringly from time to time, but it is done purposefully and, in one instance, managed to elicit raucous laughter from the audience when a horribly tragic moment was immediately undercut by an absurd kids’ commercial playing on a television in the next scene. The actors in “Mandydo a great job delivering the dialogue, and many of their visual quirks tell the audience more about themselves than the words they speak, but the true standout of the film is Nicolas Cage. Cage separates himself from just about every other mainstream Hollywood actor because his real-life persona is just as (if not more) eccentric than the characters he plays on screen. Although many of his movies in recent years are terrible, his passion for “Mandy” shows and he manages to portray a range of emotions from absurdly hilarious to heartfelt and morbidly sorrowful. Cosmatos is aware of Cage’s notoriety and uses it to the advantage of the film, because many of the comically violent things Cage enacts onto his enemies just would not have the same impact on the audience if it was anyone other than the internet’s favorite ludicrous actor.  

Finally, the haunting synth score echoing eerily in the background transcends every scene and blends in peaceful harmony with Cosmatos’ flair for hallucinogenic colors and imagery. This movie is a thrill ride for the senses and is worth seeing in the theater just to appreciate all the visuals and sounds in their most spectacular form.  

“Mandy” is certainly not for every movie-goer, especially those turned off by unhinged violence. The first act can be tedious to sit through, and I would actually recommend watching the trailer first to see if the murderous pay-off to the slow start is something worth enduring for you. For those looking for a movie in the theaters that is off the beaten path and brimming with originality and ingenuity, then “Mandy” is the perfect recommendation. Despite its flaws, my positive experience watching “Mandy” will likely be one of the best of the year and one I will cherish while enduring the next superhero “beat ’em up” flick.

Matt Martella can be reached at [email protected]