When it comes to revenge fantasies, it pays to go big. 2018's Mandy casts Nicolas Cage as its bloody avenger, putting him in a handsomely realised fantasy version of north American wilderness populated by psychotic biker orcs on LSD, vigilante lumberjacks, a dangerous Christian cult, and at least one tiger. The influences are clearer than any real vision on the part of its director and Cage completely overwhelms the film in its second half. But it’s a nice, gratuitous ride.
Cage plays a lumberjack named Red who goes home to his pretty young wife, Mandy, played by Andrea Riseborough in one of the few roles I’ve seen her in where she doesn’t come off as the heroine in a romance novel. Mandy prefers to read fourth rate Lovecraftian prose and she reads aloud in narration a ham-fisted description of a fantastic landscape.
As though reality is paying tribute to her literary tastes, the backgrounds seem to get stranger and stranger as Cage gets to work avenging her. He even forges an incredibly cheesy, useless looking battle axe.
It’s all so very metal and the filmmakers seem like nice people you’d want to have a beer or headbang with. But the film is more of a nice piece of Mad Max fan fiction than a comparably effective fantasy in itself. Nicolas Cage gives a base level Nicolas Cage performance. The screams of remorse and rage he gives in to in a strange sunflower papered bathroom could’ve been sampled from any number of Nicolas Cage films. The villain is a really cheesy, pathetic Christian guru and Riseborough’s best moment in the film is when she laughs at his intensely ridiculous sales pitch of his godliness. He’s a skinny little twerp, he’s not half the crazy eyed walking god Nicolas Cage is with his crossbow he calls “Reaper”.
The elaborate fonts in the chapter titles and the synthesiser score by the late Johann Johannson sometimes make Mandy feel like The Theme from Stranger Things: The Motion Picture and one suspects this film getting made had a lot to do with the 80s horror nostalgia Stranger Things instigated. The dialogue is spare and not great in the first half of the film but it’s well worth watching for the Frazetta and Heavy Metal homage imagery and Nicolas Cage flexing his crazy face in an appropriate setting.