Hollywood “artist” Thomas meets strange drifter Jack in the Mojave Desert whilst trying to piece together his life and understand his own existence. Throw in a rifle, conversations about literature, and who-walked-into-whose-camp issues, and you get a story about one man’s desire to destroy the other man’s life, wrapped around the innocent killing of a park ranger.
Desert landscapes, bright colours, swirling camera angles and a lot of staring into the distance, smoking and questioning man’s need to be: 40’s noir is an obvious influence, and the work of Martin Scorsese, but it fails to live up to the potential and instead comes off pretentious and boring. The accent Jack has becomes an odd choice after the first long monologue but due to Isaac’s charm, he is still mainly watchable. The intense looks from both lead actors, bordering on teary-eyed break-up scenes, are interesting and do draw you in, but it’s the manner of their tiff that becomes flat after Thomas’ time in the desert. Once back to LA, the inclusion of Mark Wahlberg as a playboy producer, Walton Goggins as Thomas’ sitting-down-always agent, who looks as though he’s constantly about to turn into dust and be one with the breeze due to his stillness, and Louise Bourgoin, as Thomas’s on-off love interest, it becomes a thriller of expected turns that aren’t hard to predict.
Written and directed by William Monahan, Oscar winning script writer of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed and the unfortunate Kingdom of Heaven, Body of Lies, Edge of Darkness, London Boulevard (which he also directed), Oblivion, The Gambler and Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. Going by his hit list, perhaps The Departed was an act of luck in an otherwise minefield of downright awful films. Hoping to see a change in direction for Mojave, especially with the fantastic cast of Oscar Isaac and Garrett Hedlund, both coming off the success of Inside Llewyn Davis, Mark Walhberg from Ted and The Gambler, and Walton Goggins, before he was the star of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, Mojave is plagued with a bloated script full of strange monologue’s about religion, life and famous writers. It wraps itself around existentialism through the inner workings of a depressed and downtrodden filmmaker who hates Hollywood and his success having a chance encounter with a hippie, desert-starved killer who ends every sentence with “brother” as much as Hulk Hogan’s testimony in his last court case.
Actors like Isaac and Hedlund are able to be engaging and strike poses that invoke some kind of interest, but knowing how much better they can be, like Isaac’s turn in A Most Violent Year, Ex Machina and that little sci-fi film called Star Wars; it’s disappointing despite some strong ideas and images that are interesting. The film as a whole tends to wander off into its own little corner.
Reviewed on Blu-Ray, it looks fantastic at points, showing the desert’s vivid terrain in a stunning manner, but it is a shame that there wasn’t any special features going more into the details of the shoot and the blocking of the scenes.
Review by Simon Childs
Signature Entertainment presents Mojave on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD on 16 May 2016