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Categories: Movie Reviews

Panos Cosmatos’ newest film, Mandy, is here to melt both the brains and the hearts of even the most disillusioned cinephiles.

“Instant cult classic” is a term that gets thrown around a lot when somebody really wants you to like something so you’ll just have to take me at face value when I call Mandy a surefire one. Panos Cosmatos’ second feature film, after 2010’s equally recommended Beyond the Black Rainbow, is a definite step towards maybe not “legendary” but definitely “one to watch.”

The son of cult-favourite director George P. Cosmatos (whose films are often remembered for being more entertaining than they are good), Panos Cosmatos arrives on the international scene as one of the new line of Movie Brats. Most of them direct descendants of directors and producers from the 80s and 90s in Hollywood with names like Landis, Levinson and Kasdan.

Cosmatos not only demonstrates the love and understanding which goes hand in hand with the image of that filmmaking lineage but, most importantly, he exudes a certain level of care. Shots are well composed. But they’re not overthought. The story wants to take you to weird and exciting situations. But it never gets ahead of itself.

So much of what makes a good director good is acceptance of limitations. Mandy is enthusiastically psychedelic and bursting with ideas. But it never once sacrifices quality for the realisation of an idea. The goal always feels like it’s to make a good film, not to sell Cosmatos as an auteur.

Mandy might very well be the most pure example of a “revenge film” from at least the past decade. It really is, very much, mostly a story about a man (Nicolas Cage) getting revenge on a  bunch of very nasty characters who do a very nasty thing to him. That’s it.

What the religious, cultural and historical iconography means, precisely, is up for you to interpret. It’s an indulgence, for sure, but it has the decency to treat you like an adult who can notice, and enjoy, things for themselves rather than commanding you to via the dialogue and the editing.        

Cage is an actor whose work people are, rightfully, wary of due to the extreme lapses in quality regarding projects which he signs up to star in. Not all of his decisions are duds but Mandy is probably the best film Cage has starred in for at least five years, arguably longer, and it has the potential to ultimately go down as one of his most iconic screen appearances ever.

You hire Nicolas Cage to bring a certain kind of energy to your project and, while he definitely brings it to Mandy, that energy is as well-measured as everything else. The film is almost two hours long but it does not feel that way at all. The experience, narratively and visually, washes over the audience in an almost comforting way despite grotesque violence and satanically dark themes.

It’s big, it’s loud, it’s bold, it’s inventive and it completely understands what makes it appealing and enjoyable. Sporting, what appears to be, the final film score of beloved composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, Mandy might be 2018’s first truly unmissable film. Be there or be square.

Mandy will be released in select UK cinemas on October 12th

Mark Birrell

Mark is the editor of The Spread as well as a freelance copywriter and lifelong cinephile. For writing enquiries, you can email him at mark@cinemajam.com and you can follow him on Twitter @markwbirrell

Posted on Oct 7, 2018

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