Mandy Blu-ray Review
Mad Max on drugs
Mandy Film Review
Blending Mad Max: The Road Warrior, William Blake, AC/DC, and Nicolas Cage having a bad LSD trip, Mandy is a unique experience.An unimaginable melting pot of themes and ideas, familiar characterisations in an unfamiliar style, Mandy is a tremendously moody, atmospheric and unforgettable movie which will likely leave you viscerally exhausted. Unlike anything you'll have seen before, it blends seemingly incongruous styles to superb effect, not least thanks to an outstanding score from the late, great Jóhann Jóhannsson (Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival). Shot through with an 80s exploitation vibe, right down to the lensing of the piece, this sophomore effort from newcomer director, Panos Cosmatos (son of director, George P. Cosmatos - Tombstone and First Blood: Part II), is a striking effort.
The story follows Nicolas Cage's lumberjack, Red, living a peaceful existence with his Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), only to have her catch the eye of a strange cult, who enlist the help of an even more strange biker gang to obtain her, engendering the wrath of Red, who heads down a path that, for all intents and purposes, literally leads to hell.
The kind of hallucinatory, nightmarish audiovisual experience that will leave you exhausted come the end of it.
Whether you view it as Mad Max redone by the creators of Garth Marenghi's Dark Place, or The Road Warrior by way of Thomas Blake, or just an 80s heavy metal band's album cover come to life during a bad trip, Mandy is utterly insane. The use of vivid imagery, blown-out colours and overbearing primary tones, shooting through mist and haze to create some stunning shots, leave it a visually opulent wonder to behold. Setting this to an oppressive 80s soundtrack only further takes you down the rabbit hole on this dark, magical mystery voyage.
If you can possibly imagine a film where a dialled-up-to-11 Nicolas Cage is simply incapable of doing anything out of place, then this is it; he goes above and beyond, getting his vendetta on like you would not believe. Indeed it's Cage's movie through and through - at least as much as it is Cosmatos' and Jóhannsson's. They each contribute to the character, style, mood, tone, look and atmosphere of the piece with an equally important outcome - crafting a dark but supremely engaging feature whose only real fault is a modicum of over-indulgence which could have easily been removed with a slightly more keen eye on the editing. It's a minor complaint though, as Mandy is quite unlike anything else you're likely to see this year - the kind of hallucinatory, nightmarish audiovisual experience that will leave you exhausted come the end of it.
Mandy Blu-ray PictureMandy was destined for a straight-to-digital release in the US, but word of mouth and - curiously - actual fan demand saw the studios make a last-minute about-turn and push it out to more cinemas than expected; and for longer, defying the expectations that usually go with day-and-date digital releases, which almost universally disappear from the cinema (a medium only really used to promote the digital release anyway) as soon as they appear.
Unfortunately, it's also subject to a frustrating reversal-of-fortunes on home formats, earning a DVD-only wide UK release, which simply isn't the right format for delivering this kind of audiovisual piece, even to home audiences. The silver lining: HMV, who quietly picked up the exclusive UK Blu-ray release of the feature.
A very faithful, very striking video presentation.
It's not all silver lining, however, with Mandy another one of those painfully tinkered-with digital productions, made to look more gritty and grimy in post - a process which has the unfortunate effect of robbing it of some of its underlying detail, or at the very least obscuring it. It's not as if Mandy was a brightly-lit, clear film in the first place - enjoying plenty of dark, almost pitch black sequences; plenty of almost candlelit sequences, and a whole array of primary hues-struck shots (possibly a good third of the film lives in an entirely pure blood red-hued alternate universe) - but the process of making it look more beaten-up like a proper exploitation flick doesn't always do it any favours.
Close-ups do thankfully still show off some impressive details, nuances and textures creeping out from under the murky, dirty shadows, with the vibrant, mind-bending colour scheme handled in almost all of its extremes (there is some crush, but what did you expect?), and black levels also stray somewhat, but overall this is exactly what it looked like on the Big Screen, and you're generally all too caught up in the sensory overload to start to question whether or not the Director wanted it to look exactly like this (he probably did). As a result, it's a very faithful, at times very striking video presentation.
Mandy Blu-ray SoundThe last score by Jóhann Jóhannsson really deserved a full immersive audio track, possibly even more so than the vibrant video ideally needed some HDR enhancement, but the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is far from a poor alternative; indeed it's thoroughly demo-worthy - it's just that full DTS:X or Dolby Atmos would have been a treat!
Dialogue is the least important element, sometimes even getting buried in the aural assault that the score delivers; a LFE-laden, rock-heavy work of pure oppressive chaos, threatening to totally overwhelm you at several stages in the proceedings, and barely giving you a moment to breathe. It's gloriously mad, and it will give your soundsystem a suitably expansive workout, even without full 3D design, pulling in myriad effects - gunshots, bike roars and burning flesh - to penetrate the maelstrom, and bringing this crazy woodland horror-scape to life, rounding out a demo track which, if you dial it right up, is sure to absolutely engulf you.
Mandy Blu-ray ExtrasMandy's Blu-ray release comes with a solid 20 minute Making-of Featurette as well as a further quarter hour of Deleted Scenes worth checking out.
Mandy Blu-ray VerdictWith marmite suitably spread all over by way of warning, this also comes with a recommendation.
There's absolutely no doubt that this is going to be a complete an utter marmite movie - with some balking at the pretentious overkill that the director displays with visual and aural excesses which are only eclipsed by the wide-eyed madness displayed by a full-tilt Nic Cage. Others, however, might appreciate turning the lights off, turning the volume up, and getting drowned by this utterly insane little sensory overload of a film - actually Cage's best film in years - coming replete with hallucinatory visuals and enhanced no end by the oppressive majesty of the late Jóhann Jóhannsson's very last LFE-infused beats.
If you fall into the latter camp, then don't be worried about the lack of (non-third-party-seller) Blu-ray options popping up on your Amazon search; this baby is an HMV exclusive, and with strong video and demo audio, as well as a few nice extras, it'll make the most bewildering Christmas present you could deign to get yourself - or some unsuspecting work colleague perhaps. With marmite suitably spread all over by way of warning, this also comes with a recommendation.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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