Andrea Riseborough, Bill Duke, Ned Dennehy, Linus Roache and Richard Brake. With its vintage visual style reminiscent of old school cinema, the movie has a colorful, but at the same time nostalgic mood, that certainly adds a dense element to its intricate and elaborate visual artistry.
On this film, Nicolas Cage plays Red Miller, a woodman that is happily married with Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), a cashier in a shop on their nearby neighborhood, and a talented artist on her free time. They live a simple lifestyle in relative isolation in the Shadows Mountain region of California, where peace and quietness are part of daily life. On a certain occasion, Mandy crosses the road when an eccentric group of people in a van is passing by. They are members of a bizarre cult, called Children of the New Dawn. Unbeknownst to her, the leader of the cult, a man named Jeremiah (Linus Roache) asks his right-hand man, Brother Swan (Ned Dennehy) to capture her, as he wants to have her.
Brother Swan, then, goes along with other cult member to fulfil his task. On arriving in a secret place, he makes a devilish arrangement with a nefarious horde of demonic motorcycle maniacs to kidnap Mandy. The group arrives when Mandy and Miller are sleeping, so Miller is easily subdued, and Mandy is successfully captured. On her captivity, she recognizes an old woman from before, who had earlier bought something on her work place, asking her something about the book she was reading. Mandy is then drugged with the venom of a giant wasp, and afterwards, completely hallucinating, is introduced to Jeremiah. In a delirious journey provoked by the substance administered to her, she begins to laugh hysterically, to Jeremiah’s disappointment.
Miller is also held captive by the malevolent sect, tough outdoor. After her time with Mandy, Jeremiah goes outside with Brother Swan and one of his female servants, and begins to torment Miller psychologically, eventually stabbing him with a dagger. Then they excruciatingly torture him, by burning Mandy alive in front of him, tough she was involved in a giant fabric bag. On watching Mandy completely burn to death, Miller becomes severely distressed, and an irrepressible fury against the members of the sect strongly resonates on him.
He then wakes up, completely disrupted. He goes to the bathroom, and drinks an alcoholic beverage from a bottle he had hidden. He also starts to overflow all his fury. After recovering a little, Miller decides to visit a friend, Caruthers (Bill Duke), to pick up a weapon. He initially says he will go hunting, and tries to disguise his pain, but eventually he crumbles, and tell his friend what happened. Caruthers then tells him that a criminal gang called Black Skulls are the probable culprits behind the atrocity Miller and his wife have suffered, as they have terrorizing some nearby regions of the country for some time. They drive black motorcycles and can be seen only at night. Their main fuel is a very potent form of LSD they used to deliver, as a service to an independent drug lord. Caruthers tells Miller that he saw the gang once, at safe distance, and informs him the location they are most likely to be.
Miller then displays all his ability as an ironsmith, to create a giant combat axe to fight his nemesis, and afterwards, drives along in search of the gang. In one occasion, Miller manages to shoot one of them with an arrow, after precisely capturing him through the lens of his gun. Rapidly, he stepped into his van, and drove on where his victim had felt on the road to run over him. Nevertheless, the assailant has managed to stay on his knees in the middle of the pavement, and with a gun shot Miller’s van several times, before a fatal collision between the two took place.
Miller loses his conscience. When he wakes up, he finds himself imprisoned in a very claustrophobic deposit. His right hand is handcuffed to a pipe, while his left hand is nailed to the ground. Soon, he realizes he is being held captive by one of the Black Skulls. His assailant starts to beat him, talking to him in a very grotesque voice. But Miller manages to subdue his aggressor, breaking the pipe that was indeed a little loose, freeing his right hand, and spanking his antagonist with the pipe until he falls into a lateral pit.
Miller then starts to explore the place where he is, and suddenly realizes it’s a very underground hideout. He sees an assassinated couple in a bed, and then confronts one of the Black Skulls, that was consuming large quantities of drug in a very dark living room. Miller is able to subdue him, but with great difficulty, as this Black Skull in particular is thoroughly truculent, aggressive and bestial. But Miller kills him by slashing his throat with a razor. The TV then is destroyed by a fire shoot, and Miller confronts again the assailant from before, the one he had thrown into the pit. But once again, Miller is successful in subjugating his attacker. Miller then “celebrates” his victory by consuming a large amount of cocaine that was over a table in the living room.
On further exploration of the place, Miller encounters his axe. He also accidentally experiments the degraded version of LSD the Black Skulls are addicted to, and have a voraciously and intense delusional acid trip. When he leaves to proceed on his vengeance hunting, he shoots another Black Skull with one arrow, in front of a burning car. The Black Skull doesn’t die, though, and the two begin to fight. After some moments, this member of the gang tells Miller that his wife is still burning. This infuriates Miller, who throws his antagonist directly into the flames and then, in a vicious rampage, decapitates him with his axe. Miller then lights a cigar with the fire in the burning head of the assailant.
Miller then leaves his motor vehicle in a cave, and decides to sleep a little. He then have another dream with Mandy, which is a brief animated sequence, where she is naked, and pulling of the heart of a dead monster. Miller then finds the mountainous region that serves as the new headquarters for the members of the Children of the New Dawn.
Miller begins his irrational fury by viciously attacking Brother Swan, who was leaving his vehicle. Upon the aggression he brutally receives, he manages to say that Mandy has “burned brightly”, scorning Miller by asking him “don’t you think?” – Miller then introduces the sharp lower tip of his axe into the mouth of Brother Swan, breaking his jaw. He then pushes his axe more profoundly, brutally injuring and killing him. The younger woman, a member of the cult, was there, accompanying Brother Swan in the van. She silently cries, but Miller does nothing to her.
Miller then proceeds to kill other members of the cult. He kills the next by throwing his axe directly into his head. Another one was fought in a battle of chainsaws, although Miller’s antagonist had one whose blade was much longer. Miller manages to inflict a profound wound in his opponent, but this fight proves to him thoroughly difficult to be won. Miller then picks up a chain, and manages to throw it out around the neck of his enemy, pushing it and forcing him to fall over one of the chainsaws – who was on –, that completely eviscerates Miller’s antagonist in the process.
Jeremiah is naked, alone with his egocentric godly delusions in a closed room, when the decapitated head of the matriarch is thrown at his direction. Jeremiah says to Miller that he can’t hurt him, as he continues to proclaim that he is a type of god. When Miller attacks him, Jeremiah starts to beg for his life. But after just a few moments, Jeremiah has a change of heart, and begins to insult Miller, saying that it’s him that should knee, and not the contrary. But Miller says to Jeremiah “I am your god now”, and starts to crush his head, until his eyes pops out, and his skull is brutally smashed. Miller then, feeling at least a little redeemed, sets the place on fire.
Feeling at least partially relieved, Miller let the good memories related to Mandy flow back. He then drives away, with the sensation of mission accomplished.
While this movie is good entertainment, it’s not a fantastic, exhilarating nor a superb work of art. More or less, it’s basically a typical revenge for love type of story.
The psychedelic features and the more exotic vibe present in the visual elements are an interesting feature, that certainly adds a genuine and interesting quality into the atmosphere of the movie. They are well developed, and used correctly, not overtly exaggerated throughout the whole production, but applied in precise and effective moments, to increase the effect and to transmit to the audience a correspondent sensation about what a specific character was feeling in a precise given moment. But this component, despite it’s cohesive usefulness on various passages of the movie, does not serve as a guarantee concerning the artistic efficiency of the film.
Don’t get me wrong. Here there is beautiful cinematography, exceedingly dense and poetic visual scenes, artistic elegance, a consistent narrative, but in the end, Mandy is just a little above the average action flick. Like I wrote some lines above, it’s a very good entertainment. If you like generally reasonable action movies with somewhat generic storylines, you will certainly be pleased with this one. Just keep your expectations low. Don’t expect too much out of it. Yes, you will be thrilled by some really amazing, genuine and colorful exotic scenes. This will be your main reward for risking your time to see this really cool hipster piece. The scenes where Jeremiah delivers an esoteric monologue while his face is entirely red, and his facial features constantly shift to look like Mandy’s are certainly a good exemplar of the colorful unusual imagery that sets the tone of this somewhat relatively audacious vengeance story.
In the end, Mandy is not a bad movie. On the contrary, it’s a very good action flick. It serves to prove that, in the end, Hollywood still manages to do some decently good conventional action sequences. But don’t expect too much out of it. Despite decent visuals, and a plausible conjuncture of good ideas, Mandy will hardly exceed your expectations. In just a few weeks, it will be just another Nicolas Cage movie.