Mandy: A Rambo for our Time

7 Jul

This review is a little different. It’s very rare that a movie speaks to a generation of millennials anymore. A film for the past eleven years, during the decade of Marvel films, all of them were bland, generic, after Joss Whedon’s “Age of Ultron” but a film that is not a part of a franchise like Marvel is hard to sell to an American audience. “The Big Picture: The Fight for Future Movies” by Ben Fritz illustrates the state of modern films, and to those who grew up with the 70’s films, the Marvel films are a depressing realization of pop art taken to its logical conclusion, which is based on a family friendly material, unless it was the Captain America films, which could be more than a generic popcorn extravaganza. Everyone loves a big budget film, but during the timing of Trump America, and the media meltdown on the news every night, it’s hard to look at films and games without seeing bias. Where Art needs to present itself is not usually in a big budget film. Enter Mandy. 

A film that should have been rejected upon its release in 2018. Even a lover of films and video games, I respond better to films that stand as “Art for Art’s sake” and revolt against the current bid of “Marvel family friendly films.” Mandy is a action horror film that should feel tired and uninventive. The problem is Mandy works on so many levels. It’s a film that embraces reality but also a mythological tale of vengeance and horror wrapped into a subtle Nic Cage performance that when turned to 11, it doesn’t feel slow or dragged. The story follows Red, who is a victim of abuse from religious fanatics, and demons they call upon in the guise of motorcycle gangs, but the obvious deception is that it all blends together. 

The horror of Red on his journey to hell is that he is vindicated in the journey, and the villains aren’t given any other “subtlety” as it has elements of “Hellraiser” with the gang as representation of what society views as horror. The villains aren’t seen, covered in mask, given distorted voices, as they have no backstory. The more a villain has a backstory the audience is not on Red’s side. Red is the character that Stallone in Rambo wished he could have played, without the muscles and the bravado, but Nic Cage has the everyman appeal of an Aragorn, and scenes are reminiscent of a fantasy horror epic, like Berserk, by Kentaro Miura. Written and directed by Panos Campastano’s, it’s a world that should have worked in another time, but still, the timelessness of the story, and the simple outline of a “revenge story” is what allows us to be on Red’s side. 

After watching his wife being burned inside a bag, and the sounds the picture gives is what gives Mandy the edge that most other films don’t have. It’s willing to go dark when society can’t take it. While this review is late, the importance of the review still stands. I was not born when Blade Runner or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, but I can realize the importance of the text of Philip K. Dick and Ridley Scott’s interpretation. What Mandy does is realize what it’s strengths and weaknesses are, and the grain used in Mandy is almost used to nostalgic effects, since it does take place in the 80’s. 

If having a crisp and clear presentation works, the Marvel films should have won Best Picture Oscars by now. It’s clear that what’s popular is not always good, but films like Mandy prove that vision will help a picture succeed in multiple viewings. You can see something different every single time. What makes Mandy special is that it’s not being followed up by a sequel, because even after the film is over, the audience is exhausted by the end, and we all want Red to live a normal life after, but the film might promise a sequel, but if it was, it would become a brand and not a work of art. 

The first Rambo film is the equivalent of commerce and art working together, as the plot of the film is thin, grindhouse with a heart. Mandy doesn’t want to overcomplicate it’s message and it’s more meaningful as we see the film turn into a darker gem that should stay one film. What also made the first Rambo a success is that “the simplicity is what makes a revenge film far easier to swallow,” and at least Mandy follows through with the act of revenge, where Last of Us II fails. The film’s scenery of the Pacific Northwest was filmed in Belgium, to LOTR like beauty. The anti-religious material works for the time of the movie, and if put in today’s context, the film would not have worked well.

            Campastanos was talking about a sequel where Red was “hunting neo nazi’s in a punked out city” “I don’t know if that would ever happen, but it’s a fun thought” (https://www.indiewire.com/2018/10/mandy-sequel-panos-cosmatos-nicolas-cage-1202015102/) was the directors words, and I think it would be a bad fit for 2020, and for Red, since he’s not a mad dog who would blindly kill, unless he had a motivation that wasn’t contrived or told before. What is outstanding is that Nic Cage, who I think should “ham up the movie” is the amazing part of the film, alongside the direction and writing, who turns in one of his best performances in his career (as I would place this with a tie in Richard Stanley’s adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s Color out of Space). What can be said is that the film would be unnecessary with a sequel and after the ordeal Red goes through, I only wish him to have the victory gained, but a character like Red, shouldn’t be exploited, such as Rambo was. The problem is that Mandy should have been known, and even I overlooked it at the time. This film will be up there with cult films of Dario Argento and Salo: 120 days of Sodom. 

            Rating: 10/10 

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