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‘Mandy’ a demonic thriller with Nicolas Cage at his best

Nicolas Cage stars as Red in

Nicolas Cage stars as Red in "Mandy," an action thriller with a demonic twist. Photo Credit: RLJE Films

Mandy

Directed by Panos Cosmatos

Starring Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roche

Not rated

If you’re skeptical about “Mandy” because it stars Nicolas Cage, that’s both an understandable impulse in 2018 and a misguided one.

It’s understandable because the actor has famously appeared to stop turning down projects, spending recent years starring in so many substandard, barely-there thrillers with titles like “Rage” or “Stolen,” that his presence at the top of a cast hardly means anything anymore.

And it’s misguided because “Mandy” is the real deal. It’s a disturbing, expressionist horror picture by Panos Cosmatos (“Beyond the Black Rainbow”), an Italian filmmaker blessed with moody artistic gifts, particularly an aptitude for building an aura of still, ominous foreboding.

Engulfed in threatening red mist, the picture plays like it was conjured up out of a demonic fire, with the atmospheric synthesizers of the final, industrial score by the late Johann Johannsson fomenting a sense of guttural terror.

Cage plays the taciturn Red Miller, a lumberjack who lives in the Pacific Northwest with his lover Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), and is driven to an insane, drug-fueled mission of revenge after she’s kidnapped by satanic cultists led by Jeremiah (Linus Roche, who more than fills the overacting quotient).

Beneath the lavish explosion of crimson red, hellfire style and the inclusion of moments that offer enough hyperactive derangement to satisfy midnight audiences for years to come — there’s a biker gang of monsters, animated interludes, and plenty of gory, violent deaths — this is a fairly conventional story.

But it offers the perfect combination of a filmmaker and star, committed to going for broke, and seeing this crazed vision through to the end.

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