Now I need someone to kiss me and stop me from shaking. Mandy, starring Nicolas Cage, is a death-metal horror about a guy seeking revenge for the murder of his girlfriend ... named Mandy. There is some serious vexation here. The displeasure is brought on-stream. Granted, every YouTube consumer knows about “Cage rage”. But this time Cage really is as cross as two sticks.
This outrageously over the top film is nothing if not uninhibited, often visually amazing, not to say barking mad. There has been some discussion about how Cage is revolutionising acting, challenging the naturalist consensus. And maybe he is — although it’s possible that Mandy is his tribute to how an American version of Sir Donald Wolfit might play Titus Andronicus. Cage certainly takes us way beyond the laugh with/laugh at debate. He’s absurd, or maybe absurdist, yet the question of how intentional this is doesn’t take away from the fact that he is sometimes weirdly magnificent. His character certainly has a great gag about Erik Estrada.
The year is 1983 and Cage plays Red, a logging worker who is professionally pretty handy with a chainsaw. (Uh, oh.) At the end of a tough temporary gig chopping down trees, Red drives back to his remote cabin (while listening to Ronald Reagan on the radio) where his partner Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) is to be found, a sensitive soul who whiles away the days drawing intensely detailed comic-book-style figures. They are a blissfully happy couple, but the dread-filled electronic score from the late Johann Johannsson, like a gaunt church organ of doom, makes sure we realise no good can come of this.
Then a Mansonesque hippy-weirdo gang show up, led by one Jeremiah Sand, played by Linus Roache. Jeremiah and his goons tie them both up and exact various horrific tortures on her, which after their departure are to send Red off on his eye-for-an-eye odyssey. There really are some extraordinary scenes. The druggily distended moment when Jeremiah leans in close to Mandy to tell her about his vision becomes very grisly in the firelight as his face morphs into hers.
And then of course there are the Cage fireworks, most mind-boggling when at the apex of his grief and ferocity he crashes into the bathroom, and chugs a bottle of vodka after sloshing it on his wounds, screaming horribly all the while. It is utterly bizarre when, in shock, he stares at the TV in the corner, which is blaring an ad for something called “Cheddar Goblin”. Sadly, it is a fictional ad, created for this film.
Mandy got an awful lot of laughs from a crowded theatre when I saw it, all of them deserved, I think, with explicit shots dropped in at the end of Cage doing some deliberately extreme mugging. Is director Panos Cosmatos hedging his bets? I don’t know. It’s an uncompromising midnight movie.
Don’t miss it!
Mandy releases in the UAE on October 18.