Monday, September 17, 2018

Short Attention Span Review: Mandy (2018)

Short Attention Span Review: Mandy (2018)

Mandy is a showstopper, no doubt about it.  It's also a tough watch on a few levels.  I would say that 75% of the movie-going public will hate it for one reason or another.  Many will not survive the deliberate and ominous first act.  Many will be unable to handle the hardcore violence that becomes more and more prominent as the film progresses.  Others won't like the trippy aspects of the show, and then there are those who won't be able to handle batshit crazy Nicolas Cage.  In all honesty, I found all of these elements to be strengths, with only the deliberate pacing of the first reel threatening to spoil my enjoyment.  I like a slow burn, but that opening pushes the concept to its very limits.  Thankfully, once things ramped up, I found myself in cult classic heaven--or I guess cult classic hell would be more like it in this case.  I'm also not opposed to trippy flicks when they work, and I think that Mandy remains coherent while also emerging as perhaps the trippiest picture I've ever enjoyed.  The violence is a welcome payoff after that subdued opening, and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the choreography on display.  All too often, filmmakers who take a deliberate approach to their craft have a hard time dishing out thrills when it's time to start cooking.  That was not the case here, and Panos Cosmatos surely honored his father's legacy with a handful of visceral confrontations and some badass imagery.  Finally, while the script and direction are both solid but flawed, the hype surrounding Nicolas Cage's performance in Mandy is absolutely warranted.  He never falters, offering up an authoritative and nuanced portrayal of a quest for vengeance like no other.  Cage has often been praised as an actor of talent, yet he has also garnered a reputation for going gleefully over-the-top and perhaps even sabotaging his work with a lack of restraint.  I have seen (and enjoyed) both flavors of Cage, but this may the first time that I've seen the two occupy the same space.  It is impossible to imagine anyone else playing this part, and even when the picture is moving a bit too slow or exploding into surreal territory that mercilessly stretches the very bounds of credibility--even as it relates to a gonzo horror film set in alternate universe--it is Cage's passion and skill that holds the viewer's attention.  No bullshit, I would nominate him for an Oscar if I could.  But I can't, and the Oscars are bullshit anyway.  Mandy, on the other hand, is totally legitimate.

Final Grade: B+

Cosmatos does some amazing things with his direction, but occassionally falters.  His star, however, is at the top of his game throughout.  Could this be Cage's finest hour?  That's certainly a possibility.

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