I’d like to say that the brooding and bloody “Mandy” is what it would look like if David Lynch made a Gaspar Noe movie, but that makes director Panos Cosmatos’ slow-motion train wreck seem more appealing than it is.
The plot is straightforward, once Cosmatos (who co-wrote with Aaron Stewart-Ahn) gets to it. Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) is a grizzled logger who leaves work and goes home to a remote cabin. That’s where his lover Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), sporting an enigmatic scar on her cheek and an endless supply of heavy-metal T-shirts, draws fantasy artwork. They have no one but each other, and life is good.
One day while walking down a road, Mandy sees a van drive past. In the van are the members of a cult, and their messianic leader, Sand Jeremiah (Linus Roache). Jeremiah decides he wants Mandy for himself — so he and his fanatic followers kidnap her, and leave Red tied up with barbed wire.
Without getting too much more into the details, things go south from there, and Red ultimately goes on a bloody rampage through Sand’s disciples.
I compared Cosmatos’ work here to Lynch and Noe, but alas not the good parts of either director’s work. “Mandy” has the slow pretension of Lynch’s more inscrutable movies, but none of his off-kilter humor or subdued eroticism. And while the movie is steeped in Noe’s brand of nihilism, Cosmatos doesn’t seem to understand the dark forces he’s conjuring with in his blood-drenched images.
Cage gets to have it both ways, playing the quiet hero in the early going before turning on his trademark full-tilt crazy. His best moments are when Riseborough, once again the chameleon with soul, draws out Red’s tender heart. Too bad that heart gets sacrificed to Cosmatos’ over-the-top madness.
Open Friday, Sept. 14, at the Tower Theatre (Salt Lake City). Not rated, but probably R for bloody violence, language and drug use. Running time: 121 minutes.