Sundance Review: MANDY Is Beautiful & Artistic High-Gore Mania We Don’t Deserve

Nicolas Cage just kills the hell out of everybody. There is also a tiger.

“Who are you hunting?”

“Jesus freaks”

There are some things we as a people should not be able to resist. Nicolas Cage forging his own heavy metal battle ax to kill a band of superhuman, mutated bikers is one of them. Mandy is fucking awesome. 

Panos Cosmatos’ follow up to the fascinating but also a little slow Beyond the Black Rainbow is pretty simple on paper. A cult takes Nicolas Cage’s wife and he vows revenge. Cosmatos takes this framework and absolutely goes to town with it, delivering the slow burn hallucination one might expect from him during the first half, only to switch things up to an unrelenting and indulgent gore-fest that might surprise you in the second. We knew this director had an interest in exploring texture, color and sound. Who knew he also had it in him to be this funny, broad and insane just for the sake of it? It’s like Jodorowski doing a Neveldine-Taylor jam. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but when you see the film I promise you'll know exactly what I mean.

It really is a marvel to have an actor like Nicolas Cage out there, willing to fully commit to a weird-ass movie like this. There’s a long take in which Cage downs a whole bottle of vodka in his underwear, all while screaming and sobbing and tending his wounds, that really draws focus on what a gift he is. Who else could pull such a thing off? Who else would even try? 

Mandy doesn’t have a heavy metal soundtrack (though its soundtrack is an incredible hodgepodge of eerie brooding synths), but it is a total heavy metal movie, filled with panel-van airbrush imagery, cultist weirdos, and a group of bikers that seem inspired by Cenobites in the best way possible (they also have their very own drug, and when Cage takes a taste it is a sight to behold). This movie even has animated sequences and a chainsaw duel.

Many great films come out each year, but fans of gleefully violent action-horror must suffice with only a few choice annual titles. Mandy ranks high among that ilk, gory enough to please those needs while experimental and interesting enough to satisfy others. It’s not for everyone but if this all sounds intriguing, you’re probably going to love this. I certainly did. 

And there will be a lot of people who think the film is garbage. Some will tune out during the film's slow (but so beautiful) first half, or due to the extreme (but so beautiful) violence that follows in the second. My sole complaint involves the many characters who speak through augmented voices. There was a lot of dialogue I flat-out could not understand. But I feel like that's a small price to pay for a film in which Cage calls a mutant a "vicious snowflake" before beating his head in with a pipe.