You may well have heard of Mandy. It is the rather bonkers tale of Nicholas Cage's axe-man taking bloody vengeance against a Manson-esque cult and a hellish biker gang. It has cult genre flick written all over it. And while it looks and sounds incredible, complete with a number of instantly culty moments, it sadly isn't quite the sum of its parts. The journey is certainly an interesting one but I'm not sure it finds the significance it aches for.
It's often difficult to remember that Nicholas Cage is an actor of exceptional calibre. The Oscar-winning performer tends to end up in questionable bargain basement fare (see this year's Mom and Dad, or rather don't). Yet in Mandy he gives what might be one of his best performances in years, oscillating between a subdued understatement to outright Cage-standard bonkersness. There is a long take of the actor in a bathroom seemingly going through the five stages of grief in a matter of minutes that is a moment of true brilliance. When it comes time to assess his career Mandy will be in there as a solid case for the excellence of Nicholas Cage.
Little of the rest of the ensemble manages to break through the sound and fury of the film they are a part of. Andrea Riseborough gives a fascinating performance as the figure of Cage's affection and the cause of his wrath, even if the script doesn't give her much material to work with. Meanwhile Linus Roache makes an occasionally intimidating villain who too often recedes from the film's focus. When you're fighting for screen time with a demonic biker gang, being a cult leader isn't quite as scary as it might otherwise have been.
The real stars of the piece are Jóhann Jóhannsson and Benjamin Loeb. Mandy is truly a remarkable audiovisual experience. Loeb's visuals are striking and often breathtakingly beautiful, with the adoption of colour here like something out of Dario Argento's heyday. Jóhannsson's soundtrack is one of the year's best, an accomplished swansong from the Icelandic composer who sadly passed away in February. The score is a hellish, propulsive synth soundscape.
Panos Cosmatos' film is elevated by a lead actor who brings his A-game to proceedings as well as a devilishly good score. Its imagery will linger long after the credits even if the film lacks any real significance behind its striking vistas. There are films whose cult status becomes central to their identity and Mandy feels like the kind-of film that will become a fixture of late night screenings. Even though I wanted more from it, I can't deny that it looks and sounds like nothing else in 2018.