Cast: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Bill Duke
Director: Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow)
Why it's Great: Mandy features Nicolas Cage doing the following things: guzzling booze straight from the bottle, snorting coke off a shard of broken glass, and lighting a cigarette with a flaming severed head. Each act of chemical-assisted self-destruction serves as an apt metaphor for what watching this mesmerizing, psychedelic freak-out of a movie feels like. For his follow-up to 2010's sci-fi retro-pastiche Beyond the Black Rainbow, Cosmatos casts Cage as Red, a lumberjack living in the Pacific Northwest circa 1983. When his beloved wife Mandy (Riseborough) is murdered by a Manson-like cult and some mutant bikers, Red sets off on a path to revenge. What sounds like stock post-Tarantino premise -- the movie's plot isn't dissimilar from Kill Bill, John Wick, or Mad Max -- ends up being a trapdoor into something far funnier, stranger, and haunting than it appears. How bizarre does it get? At one point, everything pauses for a goblin-themed macaroni commercial, and you won't even blink. Structured like an LP, with side A lulling you into an ethereal dream-state and side B launching into a series of violent nightmares, the film is destined to be picked over by blood-thirsty action devotees and theory-equipped academic eggheads. (The inherent tension between hippies and heavy metal fans has never been more artfully explored.) But it's not all cult cinema references, '80s kitsch, and vintage band t-shirts. Cage's unhinged performance, which takes on an operatic quality in the bonkers final third, gives the story a much needed emotional depth. You leave completely drained. Baptized in fire. Ready to ride the lightning again.
When you'll see it: In select theaters; rent on iTunes, Amazon Video, VUDU, and YouTube (watch the trailer)