Nicolas Cage, the Oscar-nominated actor, is not a fan of Nicolas Cage, the meme. “The issue is, with the advent of the internet, doing these mashups, where they pull these choice moments without the context of the whole film around it to support it, has created this meme-ification, if you will,” he told IndieWire. “It’s been branded ‘Cage Rage,’ and it’s frustrating. I’m sure it’s frustrating for Panos, who has made what I consider a very lyrical, internal, and poetic work of art, to have this ‘Cage Rage’ thing slammed all over his movie.”
Panos is Panos Cosmatos, the director of Mandy, a scuzzy, blood-soaked hallucinogenic journey that’s garnering Cage some of the best reviews of his career. For the first time in a while, the audiences are laughing with Cage, not at him. But based on his comments, I’m not sure if he realizes this. Then again, it’s hard to know what Cage is thinking, after years of dinosaur skeletons, themed wedding proposals, and starring roles in direct-to-home video-worthy dreck like USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, Vengeance: A Love Story, and Left Behind. And Pay the Ghost, The Humanity Bureau, and Looking Glass. And Dying of the Light, Outcast, and Dog Eat Dog. It’s been a rough couple of years for Cage, but with the well-received Mom and Dad, voicing his beloved Superman in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, and now Mandy (which also boasts an incredible ambient-metal soundtrack from the late Jóhann Jóhannsson), he’s on a nice hot streak. And it’s partially thanks to tapping into his Cage Rage.
Mandy starts off slow. For the first hour of the film, very little happens. It’s mostly Red Miller (Cage) and Mandy Bloom (wide-eyed alien Andrea Riseborough) living an idyllic life in the woods. But things go south when the leader of the Children of the New Dawn, an LSD-soaked cult founded by Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache), decides to kidnap the help of Mandy with a demon biker gang. I’m hesitant to go much further about the plot, but I will describe, in brief, a few of the things that happen in the second half of Mandy.
– Nicolas Cage wields a crossbow named “The Reaper.”
– Nicolas Cage welds (yes, welds) a battle-ax.
– Nicolas Cage stares awestruck at a commercial for macaroni-and-cheese brand Cheddar Goblin (which is horror’s fastest rising star since Black Phillip).
– Nicolas Cage snorts a heaping load of cocaine.
– Nicolas Cage gets into a CHAINSAW FIGHT.
– Nicolas Cage takes shelter in a bathroom, swallows massive gulps from a bottle of vodka, and incoherently wails while pouring the liquid over his wounds. It’s a metaphor — “I always wanted to have a scene that felt like that lost decade of mine and evokes me drinking with my friends in a desperate attempt to black out my consciousness,” Cosmatos explained — and it’s magical.
– Nicolas Cage is in his tighty whities for the scene I just described.
– Nicolas Cage tells a knock-knock joke.
Mandy: Who’s there?
Red: Erik Estrada.
Mandy: Erik Estrada who?
Red: Erik Estrada from CHiPs.
This is technically from the first half of the movie, but it was worth mentioning.
Mandy, like Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans before it, is the perfect vehicle for Cage’s unique madness. It’s impossible to go big too big for a movie with a mac-and-cheese goblin and demon bikers that look like rejected GWAR members. But he’s also impressively restrained in the early portion of the film, ceding the spotlight to Mandy, which makes the vodka-induced wailing bathroom scene all the more effective. The “Cage Rage,” or whatever you want to call it, is an expression of Red’s vulnerable fury; it lies between hilarious and heartbreaking, which is when Cage is at his best (see: Adaptation).
Ironically meme-ify him all you want (“Nicolas Cage Losing His Sh*t” has nearly one million views), but few actors are as willing and able to dive headfirst into their performances, and possibly get concussed in the process, as much as Nicolas Cage. He always gives his one hundred percent, but unfortunately, he’s often stuck in movies with a 17 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Mandy is the rare film worthy of Cage’s, well, Cage-ness. The film premiered on VOD and in limited theaters on Sept. 14.