Years from now, when we look back at Nicolas Cage’s career, we’ll divide his films into categories. The retrospective may look something like this: The Early, Eager Era exemplified by movies like “Wild at Heart” and “Vampire’s Kiss,” the Prestige Years of “Leaving Las Vegas,” the Blockbuster Age that gave us “National Treasure” and then there’s Everything Else.
The Oscar winner has always made off-kilter choices, even at the peak of his fame, but his recent output has been, in a word, uneven. The pleasures of the violent “Mom and Dad” do not make up for the eye-peelingly bad “Pay the Ghost.”
But, whatever the film his fearlessness is undeniable. I get it. Nicolas Cage is not like us. Unbound by the rules of his Hollywood peers he chooses extreme movies that defy the audience to recall when he was a multi-plex ready movie star.
Watching his latest film “Mandy” hammered that home. The experimental revenge flick is the kind of unhinged revenge flick the word phantasmagorical was created to describe. Watching it made me think it must be freeing to be Cage. To not care one whit what people think; to fully immerse oneself to the whims of the imagination, to be a full-blown peacock in a world of pigeons.
“Mandy” is a story about Red Miller (Cage), a backwoods logger and artist wife Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). Solitude is their thing but when that peace and quiet is invaded by a murderous cult leader (Linus Roach), Red seeks bloody revenge. “I’m going hunting,” he tells a friend.
Your enjoyment—if that is the word I should use—of “Mandy” will be directly linked to your liking of psycho bike gangs, strange hallucinogenic visuals and chainsaw battles. The first hour is all menace and foreboding; the second hour is a big fat slab of Cage Rage. High and seemingly unstoppable Red shouts “I am your god now!” as he unleashes holy hell on the folks who did him wrong.
“Mandy” is a deeply weird movie, tailored for a very specific grindhouse type of audience, and brought to life by Cage’s cock-a-doodle performance.