I didn’t set out to watch this many revenge films, but here we are.
Much like Revenge, the new Nicholas Cage revenge film Mandy seems like two movies in one. There is the first half, in which the characters and conflict are introduced oh so very slowly. There’s practically no action, and just the tiniest bit of dialog. And then there’s the second half, which throws us pretty squarely into Tarantino territory.
Red (Cage) is a lumberjack. Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) is an artist and part-time convenience store clerk. They live in a fantastically-decorated custom-built cabin out in the woods whose windows alone have to be worth more than my house.
Mandy and Red are clearly very much into each other. There are many scenes of quiet domesticity. They discuss moving back towards civilization; Mandy is opposed because her dad murdered starlings with a crowbar. Red is empathetic; Cage reeks of Stanislavski.
The antagonists are introduced. They recruit help from a gang of Hellraiser-cosplaying bikers to kidnap Mandy. They attempt to brainwash her with eyedrops and wasp venom. Nevertheless, Mandy is not impressed by Jeremiah’s monologuing or his wiener. Things go fried-pear-shaped, Cage drinks an entire bottle of Stanislavski and screams at the camera, then goes on a murderous rampage.
Now we’re an hour into this movie, and things take a hard comic-book turn. There’s a lot of action. Fortunately, most of it is in slow-motion to keep you from getting too excited. There’s a chainsaw fight that is so phallic, lawyers representing the ghost of Sigmund demanded royalties. Many Hellraiser cosplayers die, in part because they are the kind of people who think strapping on a knife-blade dildo is anything except pathetic straining for coolitude. Cage gets to scream nonsense. Before the credits roll, he goggles at the camera, his face and clothes drenched in Stanislavski.
I liked the first half of this movie better, and I didn’t like the first half. There are a lot of people who love this movie, though. I really super liked the analog-synth-heavy soundtrack by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, so I am happy to relive that part over and over again. I think it might be the only reason I watched the whole thing anyway.
Mandy is streaming exclusively on Shudder. If you want to read some positive reviews, that’s literally anyone else; I am absolutely in the minority here. Although Shudder member “voluntaristpunk” said:
Just skip to the 1 hr mark and enjoy the ride. The first half is the most mind-numbingly self-indulgent tripe.
I don’t think the self-indulgence is that circumscribed, but the point is sound; either half can stand alone without the other. I thought that was an exciting choice in Revenge, but seeing the same moves so closely replicated in Mandy puts me in mind of Alice’s Restaurant Friends, it might be a movement. If it is, Revenge is the better film. If you have to pick one, pick that one.