Sidewinder’s View: Mandy (2018)

From 2018, this morning’s movie, one I’ve been eagerly awaiting since first hearing about it earlier this year and watching its trailer a few times:

Nicolas Cage is a lumberjack who’s hunting the LSD-fueled biker gang and whacked-out, Manson Family-like religious cult who abducted and murdered his wife, then left him for dead. Cage forges his own battle-axe/sword to dispatch the villains with, also utilizing a crossbow, his truck, a chainsaw and his bare hands.

This was not meant to be taken as anything remotely based in reality, I’m sure, but the director really laid on the droning psychedelic flourishes with a thick brush…only very, very slowwwwwly. The first hour or so of this 121-minute movie was a true endurance test, extremely ponderous and self-indulgent, while the performances, especially that of Linus Roache as the Manson-like cult leader, were really bizarre, frequently grating on my nerves.


A lot of this early material in the film, with its creaky pacing, just felt like the director was padding out a very thin, otherwise simple plot. Very pretentious, hallucinatory padding, but gratuitous, just the same.

While I understand that a movie like this is more about style than story, it didn’t need to be two hours long. Ninety to a hundred minutes would’ve sufficed. At several points during the first half of the film, I fought the urge to begin yell-quoting that line from Monty Python & The Holy Grail“GET ON WITH IT!”— at the TV screen.

Once Cage comes back from the dead, so to speak, and begins his quest for vengeance, the movie finally took off and and became interesting to me. Not really a conventional revenge thriller, but pretty suspenseful and ultra-violent, a surrealistic spin on Conan The Barbarian, with a little Mad Max thrown in for good measure.

The bikers, especially, seemed more humanoid than human, decked out in armored, spike-laden black leather and bizarre helmet-masks, like a Terry Gilliam take on the villains in Mad Max, or perhaps a Cenobite from Hellraiser crossed with a Predator. Mostly hissing and gurgling, they barely speak, and when they do, it sounds like some sort of language from outer space.

In fact, from what little of Mandy my wife made it through (I shut it off twice throughout the night before finally finishing it alone this morning before sunrise), she thought it was supposed to be set on some planet other than Earth. The final shot in the movie, where we see the horizon, sure makes it look that way.

I would definitely watch the second half of the movie again, because there was a sufficient amount of weird, nightmarish and freaky moments that made a strong impression and some really edgy, intense confrontation scenes involving Cage fighting bikers and cult members in lethal hand-to-hand combat…but I don’t think I could tolerate sitting through that tedious, glacially-paced first half again.

The first half of Mandy was a tough slog, an eye-rolling, head-scratching endurance test. The second half of the film redeemed itself beautifully, albeit in nightmarish, ultra-violent fashion. Certainly not for all tastes.