King Crimson. I feel like that would be a pretty badass nickname for Nicolas Cage. His career has been defined by unhinged performances playing wild men and weirdos along with his pomp as Hollywood’s leading man.
I mention King Crimson as they set the tone for Mandy, the crowning moment of Cage’s career. He’s made films that have made more money, he has likely made films that are actually better (and there are probably films that have kept him up at night wondering about his life choices), however Mandy manages to combine all facets of Cage as an actor, a meme/gif generator and enigmatic icon.
Mandy is a howl of a revenge film with underlying cosmic elements and a wicked, loathsome turn by Linus Roache. The raw, savage heartbeat of the film though, is Cage. The blood strewn Cage chainsaw fighting his way to vengeance is absolute must-see cinema with Panos Cosmatos unleashing furious visuals to the screen.
The scene that lingers in my head is Red (Cage) unfurling all his grief into a luridly bright, garishly decorated bathroom. It is the one scene in the entire film that takes place under immense bright lights with every other shrouded in shadow and the pink, red and purple hues with which the picture is saturated. Cage grunts, swigs vodka, pours it over his wounds and then screams. His character is in agony over witnessing the death of his wife, who is burned alive by a crazy hippie cult.
It’s an outpouring of pain in a way that only Cage can deliver. It’s over the top, it makes you feel self-conscious to be watching it. It dares you to make memes and gifs of it as Cage sits bedecked only in y-fronts and a resplendent tiger baseball shirt. It evokes the chops of an actor who has swam deeply in the pool of direct-to-video movies in recent years and the presence of a man who once led Hollywood. His screams and sobs power the second half of the film and as such a renaissance for Cage. It is Cage letting us know that he gives zero fucks about what any of us thinks.
It is a scene that ultimately decides if you are all in on Cage. It challenges you to go ahead and laugh. It challenges you to treat this man as a continued punchline for career choices made under financial duress. It challenges everything you think you know about this man.
And it spits it all back at you. There is nothing graceful in it. There is only a man and his pain. Whether that is Red’s or Cage’s who am I to say? There can be no denying that the filmmakers knew that it would be difficult for the viewer to separate Cage from his character. The fact is that Mandy moved how we think of Cage once more. His screaming into the bright lights proceeded to take him from a nostalgic curiosity and back to an icon of the madness inherent in all of us.
There is no lack of fury throughout the remaining hour (“You ripped my shirt!” among others), but nothing is as searing and real as a man reclaiming his glory whilst clad in his underpants.
Scott Cumming enjoys reading too much to consider himself a proper writer. He resides in Aberdeen with his partner and two sons. Catch up with all his misdemeanours on Twitter @tummidge