For quite some time now movie audiences have been enjoying a resurgence of the action movie. Similarly to the poorly/over-acted, low budget punch-fests of the eighties and nineties, this new breed of action movie continues to use vengeance as the primary driving force behind their narratives. However, this time around the enforcers of these movies are not portrayed by musclebound former martial artists or bodybuilders, but instead by recognized actors capable of expressing the inner torment their characters are enduring. During the exceptional action sequences in each of these movies actors such as Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron, and Denzel Washington each showcase a level of spatial awareness and CQC (Close Quarters Combat) normally only ever performed by exceedingly highly trained military operatives.
As much fun as these movies are, being so well photographed, directed and acted as they are, the vengeance acted upon the villains of the movie is usually disproportional to the reason the vengeance is instigated. Take 2014's The Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington and directed by Antoine Fuqua, in which McCall (Washington) takes on the entire Russian Mafia for a teenage prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz) he barely knows. Released the same year, John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves sees his character take on a family of Russian mobsters, all because they killed his dog. Thankfully not all of these vigilante movies have been so narratively inept, with 2008's Taken being a prime example, in which Liam Neeson starring as Bryan Mills enacts parental fury on a group of Albanian sex traffickers who have kidnapped his daughter and her friend. Produced and co-written by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) Taken remains one of the more plausible revenge movies to date.
Another more seminal revenge movie is 1994's cult classic The Crow, which was sadly Brandon Lee's (son of Bruce Lee) last movie. Starring as Eric Draven, Lee's character is resurrected a year after his fiancee's and his murders to reap fury upon those responsible. Being such a beautifully dark, gothic tale of love and vengeance it is hard imagining that any movie would rival it. Sadly The legendary tragedy of Lee's death will forever add to The Crow a mournful echo of its narrative that hopefully will never be repeated. However, narratively and cinematically The Crow now has a worthy contender - Mandy.
Starring Nicholas Cage, Linus Roache, and Andrea Riseborough and directed by Panos Cosmatos, Mandy is a surreal, dark, and gruesome tale of utter fury. Set in 1983, cult leader Jeremiah Sands (Roache) is smitten by Mandy (Riseborough). After kidnapping her and her partner Red (Cage) Sands is furious when she rejects him and burns her alive, forcing Red, bound in barbed wire, to watch. Upon getting free Red hunts down and slaughters all of those responsible.
Previously seen as the Pacifier in Chronicles of Riddick and as Thomas Wayne in Batman Begins, Linus Roache's (son of Bill Roache, AKA Coronation Street's Ken Barlow) performance as Jeremiah Sands is perfectly balanced between being maniacal and pathetic. However, the winning performance of the movie comes from Cage, whose unfiltered manic and enraged demeanor perfectly convey his characters anguish, grief and fury. The evident violence seen throughout Mandy, while frequent and brutal is never gratuitous. Better implemented than the movies of the period within which it is set, the practical gore effects never feel realistic nor hokey in their execution, but instead feel somewhat exaggerated while never becoming excessive.
A word of warning, Mandy is a surreal and brutal experience of a movie. Although the director's confidence builds a truly believable world and characters to inhabit it, that world is presented from a perspective parallel yet apart from that within which the cinematography of most mainstream movies adheres to. The visual tone of Mandy never reaches the surreality of David Lynch's Twin Peaks, or the atmosphere of isolation felt in Stanley Kubrick's works, with director Cosmatos walking a fine line between the two aforementioned surrealists and more contemporary cinema. The visual-audio style of the movie is best described as a two-hour classic heavy metal music video, especially with the movie's soundtrack courtesy of the late Johann Johannson, who sadly passed away February 9th, 2018, before the movies release September 14th, 2018.
Although some audiences may be losing faith in movies critics, following their recent reviews of movies such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Predator, and Venom, each of which was of the virtual opposite opinion held by cinema-goers, in this case the universal acclaim that Mandy has received from movie critics is wholly justified. Though surreal and violent, Mandy is a modern cult classic movie within which struggling Hollywood star Nicholas Cage excels. A truly must see movie.