Monday, October 29, 2018

MANDY (2018) Blu-ray review

Mandy (2018) d. Panos Cosmatos (USA) (121 min)

Since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, everyone seems to be going crazy for this art-house revenge flick from the son of George P. Cosmatos (Rambo: First Blood Part II, Tombstone) starring Nicolas Cage, and while I recognize there is plenty to admire, the overindulgent tone left a wicked aftertaste in my mouth both during and afterwards. With a pulsing, oversaturated color palette and (deliberately) lugubrious pacing, we are introduced to a couple (Cage, Andrea Riseborough) living a blissful existence in the backwoods (he’s a logger, she’s an artist) until a strange traveling cult-in-a-camper led by a long-haired Richard Lynch-looking gent named Jeremiah (an excellent Linus Roache) decides to kidnap Mandy with the help of their motorcycle-riding, escaped-from-the-Hellraiser-franchise Cenobites.

On paper, this all sounds enjoyably wacked-out and proves so in execution, but with too many scenes that go on much, much longer than needed, it becomes clear that we are witnessing an artist so in love with his own creation that he lacks the sense of how much is too much, sacrificing storytelling for the need to show just how Capital V-Visionary he is: We don’t lose ourselves in the story so much as we are entreated to respond, “Wow, this is SOOOOOOO different and unusual and WTF. Nice job, dude.” (Note: I have not yet seen Cosmatos’ debut feature, Beyond the Black Rainbow, but my understanding is that it shares a similar aesthetic.)

It’s also interesting then how the casting of Cage, so decidedly his own (and equally indulgent) onscreen animal, actually steals the focus away from being “A Panos Cosmatos Film” (which it clearly wants to be) to “that new weird Nicolas Cage flick where he’s got that cool chrome axe thingie.” Similarly, and while I try to avoid being prescriptive, judging the film before me instead of the one I might have rather watched, it seems a shame to have missed out on the opportunity to gender-flip the avenging angel roles so as to a) mess with audience expectations by killing off our headlining star and b) give us a clearer variation on a timeworn tale. (And yes, I get that the entire venture is attempting to tweak B-movie revenge tropes.)

If editor Brett Bachman had been allowed a firmer hand – there’s a great 85-minute movie inside the two-hour running time – I might have liked this so much more. What’s funny is that despite the length, there are still so many loose plot points that are never addressed (why Red needs a crossbow that he only uses once, why he has to get it from Bill Duke’s character, why his lumberjack is also an expert avant-garde metal-worker). I know, I know, I already hear the chorus of, “Man, it’s just a movie, just go along for the riiiiiiiide,” and maybe if our erstwhile auteur had spent a little less time wanking and wallowing, I wouldn’t have had time to think of such things because I wouldn’t have been bored out of my mind.

After all, when a friggin’ CHAINSAW DUEL fails to excite, maybe it’s time to take a step back and reassess... or maybe just admit that this ain’t my particular slice of cheese and say, “Hey, more for you, everyone.”

RLJE Films has released Mandy to Blu-ray, with 14 minutes of deleted and extended scenes and a cohesive, well-crafted, 22-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that provides, if not illumination, at least a sense of camaraderie and unified vision by all involved. We hear from Cosmatos, Riseborough (with her lovely natural British lilt), Roache, co-writer Aaron Stewart-Ahn, producers Daniel Noah, Josh C. Waller, and Elijah Wood (yes, that Elijah Wood), learning interesting tidbits like the fact that Cage was originally approached to play the Roache’s role of Jeremiah Sand, that Riseborough was always the director’s first choice, and that that is Belgium of all places standing in for the Pacific Northwest.

Mandy is available on Blu-ray Oct 30 from RLJE Films and can be ordered HERE:


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