3 out of 5
Directed by: Panos Cosmatos
Following in the same segmented path as his previous sorta-kinda-masterpiece, Beyond the Black Rainbow, Panos Cosmatos’ second feature follows a somewhat similar structural tactic – from era-soaked, tripped out, psychedelia into blood-soaked, dismemberment-happy horror – but absolutely improves on it, more securely wrapping his vision to necessities of narrative and crafting a larger world into which his various character extremes can exist. However, still being very much of a like mind with that prior effort, the same caveats are also present: there’s a general detachment throughout the film that, for me, always seems to prevent the immersion the full-attack visuals and sound would seem to be after. It’s never not interesting (and, at times, brilliant) to watch, which is where it moves, eh, beyond Beyond the Black Rainbow: every sequence in Mandy feels like a required part of the journey, and not just a slow camera crawl to the next stunning shot. But I also did not need to know where the story went; a few minutes of each ‘section’ of the film tells it all. This is the ‘sorta-kinda’ limitation to Cosmatos impressiveness: there is not a film that manages this level of commitment without suffering from nostalgia wink or feeling like pastiche, and Panos’ works never even hint at such sensations. However, that same deep dive creates a weird safety bubble around the movie; you can walk away at any point knowing that, when you return, the Worlds Of Panos will very much be the same. Mandy also has a plus/minus of some humor, thanks to the quipping and quirks of star Nic Cage. It definitely works to humanize the fantasy, to a certain extent, but the one liners feel like they come from another movie.
Nonetheless: I did not walk away. I had no desire to turn away. And Mandy’s two hour runtime felt perfectly concise.
Split, somewhat, into three sections, introduced by wonderfully designed title cards, Mandy shifts from idyllic 70s life – Red Miller (Cage) and Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) chilling in their cabin, wandering between work and home, drifting through the woods and caught up in astrology and books – to nightmare cult invasion, as Children of the New Dawn leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) takes a fancy to Mandy and kidnaps her in a mad, flickeringly-lit sequence. Now Mandy the revenge film – prefaced in death metal font – can begin, and while the gore may be somewhat limited by budget, it does not spare us from wonderfully wicked clashes and splashes.
Panos’ adoration of red and blue hues continues, and my lord there some truly astonishing shots throughout. A couple of short animated sequences feel at odds, initially, but as the film twists and turns into a Heavy Metal fantasy, they find their place. And there’s a shot of a tiger that’s a five star film in itself.
So: as concluded with Beyond the Black Rainbow: Mandy is, at the very least, an undeniable experience. Thankfully, it’s also a lot more than that, too.