After a mysterious religious cult interferes with Red (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy’s (Andrea Riseborough) idyllic, secluded life, Red goes on a bloody rampage to stop the evil force’s monstrosities.

Mandy is comfortably one of the craziest, completely unhinged and totally brilliant pieces of cinema to be released this year. From Italian-Canadian director Panos Cosmatos, it begins as a meditative, tranquil portrayal of the simple yet beautiful life shared by its lead characters. Yet there overhangs a sense of inevitable dread as the threat of darkness looms over their quaint forest home.

When that darkness finally strikes, and strike brutally it does, the weirdness is amped up and the film flips into a trippy survivalist rock’n’roll murder marathon. The work done so beautifully in the early scenes is investing enough that when it does turn, it has earned the right to go completely off the rails.

What ensues is an extended sequence of violence which goes from shift-in-your-seat creepy to laugh-out-loud funny and ultimately punch-the-air awesome. Whether it’s cocaine fuelled combat or chainsaw duels, the action continues to escalate in a way that each passing scene makes your jaw drop an extra few millimetres.

Nic Cage is the only man who could play Red. He brings genuine weight to romantic scenes with the ever-brilliant Riseborough, but it’s the dramatic descent into wide-eyed madness which only he can deliver with such raw commitment and energy.

Perhaps the other crucial factor in selling the surreal nature of Mandy is its stunning production. From the opening credits, every single frame has clearly been handled with extremely delicate care. Drenched in a gorgeous neon-red light, every shot is so well framed and the camera moves so effectively, utilising zooms to particularly great effect. With sets designed to a Kubrickian level of meticulousness, the whole experience is sumptuous on the eye.

Most notably however is the extraordinary rock-infused, synth heavy score from the late great Johann Johannsson. The Icelandic composer, who died aged 48 in February, was one of the great musical talents of cinema. It only adds to the tragedy of his early death that this masterpiece will be his final composition to be appreciated on screen. Blending into the film’s incredible soundscape, his score elevates the film onto an ethereal level.

Mandy is a wonderful, psychedelic blood fest. Somehow maintaining a serene beauty throughout, it is an unmissable testament to the artistic potential of cinema.     

5 stars

Image credit: Movie DB

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