You have to wonder why some actors don’t find themselves in more Midnight Movies. Nicholas Cage feels like the perfect actor for insanely violent and crazy action films. Nobody will really dispute that, and if they do, they must have stopped watching his films with Moonstruck in the 1980s. His latest film is far more than a revenge flick Mandy, although that’s the easy way to describe it. Yet with Cage in the lead role, the glorified grindhouse flick is sure to catch the attention of niche audiences.
The story follows Red Miller (Cage), a man living with his wife Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) in the middle of the woods. The two have made a life for themselves that isolates them from the surrounding world. Yet it’s enough for them. However, when a crazy batch of cultists and their leader sees Mandy, things change quickly. When the cult leader Jeremiah (Linus Roache) feels like Mandy has insulted him, they burn her alive. If you know anything about Cage in these movies, that means you’ve made a terrible mistake.
There are three things that could very well make this a required viewing for anyone interested in midnight movies or indie action flicks. The first is obviously Nicholas Cage. We don’t get a ton of performances like this from him. He not only embraces his crazy, but the movie uses that crazy to make the film better. Even more insane, you can make an argument he is a borderline straight man in this feature. As he fights coked out demons, a crazy cult, and more, he actually feels like the only sane person in the world. I cannot wait for the moment that a scene of Cage in a bathroom officially becomes a meme. There’s literally 0% chance you won’t know what I’m talking about if you’re in the Cult of Cage.
The second thing is Jóhan Jóhansson‘s synthed out score. This might be one of the best scores to a genre pick of his, although it will likely be forgotten in lieu of his bigger films. Still, it goes a long way towards setting the mood, which makes the ride that much more enjoyable. Finally, this movie revels in an insane visual style. The film looks like a 1980’s club for large stretches, lighting up with bright reds or almost no lights at all. Director Panos Cosmatos and DP Benjamin Loeb craft a film that will surely leave an impression on you for the visuals alone.
Surprisingly, the supporting cast kind of keeps up with Cage in their performances. One of the most surprising sequences of the film features the great Bill Duke, who serves as a friend and informant for Cage. Riseborough is excellent in her screentime and makes you care about the rest of Cage’s journey. We get some extreme close-ups on Roache where he just takes over the scene. He’s great as a cult leader, a surprising turn for an actor most of us know as Nolan’s Thomas Wayne. The cult around him fills out nicely, especially Ned Dennehy as Roache’s right-hand man.
All this said, this movie is going to lose people along the way. The pacing, while deliberate, feels awfully slow over the first hour. We know where things are going very quickly, but the revenge flick clocks in at 2 hours. We don’t get true Cage hunting until the halfway point. It’s fine to set a mood for a film. At the same time, there’s little reason for the film to be more than a hundred minutes.
The absurdity will be too much for some as well, especially with the demon monsters Cage fights at points. One of them literally does a line while watching human porn. It’s a weird moment, only made weirder by what follows. There are some genuinely great fight scenes that are basically played for laughs at times, including a chainsaw duel. There’s also an extended shot of a Tiger that is…growling at the moon? I’ll be honest it lost me for a minute too.
Mandy is not for the casual movie-goer. This is for the hardcore Cage fans, or those who likely pulpy, styled-out genre flicks. It’s both a love letter to the B-movies of the ’80’s, and it revels in a grindhouse vibe that persists throughout the movie. In many ways, this is my perfect movie. However, the pacing was a little too slow for me to fully enjoy what it’s going. Still, it is sure to become a hit for many which hopefully get more like this one.