Truly out of the box, Panos Cosmatos’ newest film “MANDY” takes creative licensing to an entirely new level. This is exactly what one of the movie’s investors, fan-owned entertainment firm Legion M, intended.
Nicholas Cage (“Leaving Las Vegas”) stars as Red Miller, an isolated tree farmer living in the serenity of the woods with his wife Mandy, played by Andrea Riseborough (“Birdman”). When a perverted, hallucinogen-fueled cult blows through town, Red’s life is completely upended by the violence and tragedy that ensues. The rest of the film is devoted to his manic, bloody revenge.
With a strange plot and strange stylistic choices of shot angles and color-highlighting that accentuate the production’s experimental approach to filmmaking, this film is certainly not for those fans who are seeking the latest classic action film by Cage.
Legion M was founded in 2016 by Jeff Annison and Paul Scanlan as the first fan-owned movie production company. The idea was not originally theirs, but thanks to the JOBS Act, they were able to make it a reality. Unlike every other corporate-run film conglomerate, Legion M is funded and owned completely by single fan investors. This gives the company leeway to invest in films Annison and Scanlan deem to have enough creative vision.
During an interview with the Technique, Annison laid out his ambitious vision. The idea that movies would be made as a work of art instead of a sequel-producing blockbuster is one that reaches out to viewers interested in the movie itself and not only in being entertained. Upcoming movies starring Stan Lee and Anne Hathaway are promised to provide this artistic attraction. When presented with only the script of “MANDY” and the promise of Nicholas Cage as the star, Legion M was quick to invest. This may turn out to be an over-investment in a director’s unique way of thinking. The film is unlike any other to grace the silver-screen in the past. The first half is filmed to appear hallucinogenic in itself. From scenes filmed all in red to others where both the sound and image are distorted in a haze corresponding to the character’s on-screen trip, “MANDY” requires the viewer’s full and undivided attention just to follow the plot, and at several points, even this amount of dedication is not enough. The absurdness of the plot combined with the inconsistency in filming angles and coloring leaves viewers confused and unsatisfied. Ironically, the film only begins to lighten up when Cage begins his violent rampage against those who wronged him. From fights with a twenty-foot chainsaw to axe melees, the goriness is comparable to that of a horror film. The carnage openly displayed onscreen is just as shocking as the fragmentation of the first half of the movie.
Overall, “MANDY” is an alarming film, in part due to its avant-garde nature, but mostly because the disjointed plot leaves viewers wondering where the film is going to go next, and often disturbed with the results. If one seeks suspense, bizarreness and visual atrocity in a risky independent film, this is their movie.