There's a moment about midway through Mandy, director Panos Cosmatos's heavy-metal John Wick-ian fever dream that debuted at Sundance on Friday night at midnight, where Nicolas Cage, wearing only white briefs and a sweat-stained t-shirt with a tiger on it, guzzles a bottle of vodka, howls in pain, and, for a few seconds, stares directly into your soul. The 54-year-old actor vibrates with emotion, transforming into a vessel of anger, despair, and madness. His face is coated in a thin film of blood, sweat, and tears. The three mix together to form a mask of rage. A shield of human need. An existential warpaint.
After years in the wilderness, Nicolas Cage has his swagger back.
It was inevitable. There comes a time in many movie stars' late career periods when critics and fans begin to speak of them using the same half-hearted qualifiers we use to talk about long-running, possibly over-the-hill rock bands. Superlatives like "This is the best U2 album since Achtung Baby," "best R.E.M. record since New Adventures in Hi-Fi," or "best Rolling Stones album in… decades," are used to describe work that may or may not actually recapture the glory days of yore. You've seen it happen with actors as universally celebrated Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, or Jack Nicholson. Now it's Cage's turn.