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Review: Mandy – “If Jodorowsky mainlined DMT while listening to doom metal non-stop”

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Mandy is the new film by Panos Cosmatos, director of Beyond the Black Rainbow — a film that still hasn’t been released in the UK despite coming out on Blu-Ray in the States 6 years ago. It’s set in a similar alternative psychedelic reality, with Kubrickian and Cronenbergian elements, and in the same year of 1983. Where it departs from its predecessor is that it has a stronger narrative. Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and his girlfriend Mandy Blum (Andrea Roseborough) live in a cabin in the Pacific Northwest. One night Mandy spots a van with ‘Children of the New Dawn’ on the side and the leader of the cult becomes obsessed with her and plans to kidnap Mandy but very quickly it all goes to hell.

Red plans and carries out his revenge for the rest of the film basically. The plot is simple, but that isn’t what will keep you watching anyway. Cage’s last decade has not featured some of his finest work. He’s done a lot of VOD films, with a quality ranging from pretty good to absolutely abysmal. For Mandy, Cosmatos gave him the permission to go to his extremes. It’s not a ‘naturalistic’ performance—there’s a classic Cage freakout that takes place in a bathroom, and features him downing a bottle of vodka for five minutes straight in his underwear. There a great cameo from Bill Duke, who viewers will know from Predator and Commando (when Duke asks Cage who he’s hunting, the answer is “Jesus freaks…”)

And it’s beautiful. The visuals are jaw-dropping, despite being achieved without much money. Basically, the whole film is pink, with accents in other colours. I’d say Mandy forms the missing link between Jodorowsky and Nicolas Winding Refn. The metaphysical journey of the film takes it into Jodorowsky territory while Refn is more interest in classical archetypes and extreme blocks of neon colour but with a result that is, far more extreme than anything either directors have done.

There’s also an excellent score, the last from Jóhann Jóhannsson, with a King Crimson song that sets the mood very well. It’s an overwhelming and relentless film (and probably shouldn’t be two hours long) but as more of an art piece despite its genre thrills, it has enough violence to satisfy the gorehounds.

Mandy is what would happen if Jodorowsky mainlined DMT while listening to doom metal non-stop. I don’t know if there’s some profound meaning to it (I’m sure there is to the filmmaker), I just want to see Cage losing it, the scene where he fights off an alien biker from hell with a ten-foot chainsaw, Cage hoovering up cocaine off a piece of broken glass, dabbing some dodgy acid and then cutting to a two-minute psychedelic montage, and getting his revenge on the evil cult. It’s the most “metal” movie ever — also glorious, over-the-top and awe-inspiring. It says something that the title card isn’t seen till halfway through the film.

The fact that someone has actually made a film like this means that absolutely everyone should go see it.

Mandy is out in the UK on 12th October 2018.

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