Mojave (2015)

Mojave (2015)
  • Time: 93 min
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Director: William Monahan
  • Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Oscar Isaac, Walton Goggins, Mark Wahlberg


A suicidal artist goes into the desert, where he finds his doppelgänger, a homicidal drifter.

One comment

  • Pretentious and overlong at 93 minutes, Mojave has the near saving grace of Oscar Isaac, whose gleefully unhinged performance makes the film a more palatable watch than it has any right to be.

    “When you get what you want, what do you want?” Thomas (Garrett Hedlund) ponders. Famous in one way or another since he was 19, he wants out of Hollywood. At least that’s what we’re meant to glean when he decides to abandon the safety and comfort of his Hollywood trappings to make a pilgrimage into the wilderness. If his time in the desert and his encounter with a mysterious stranger named Jack (Isaac), who looks as if he’s wandered off the set of a low-grade western, calls to mind Jesus being tempted by the devil during his 40 days and 40 nights in the Judean Desert, then not only have you not fallen asleep but you have managed to catch one of the many literary references that writer-director William Monahan has dropped.

    “Motiveless malignity” is one phrase uttered by Jack during the men’s initial tête–à–tête, and it’s an apt description for this movie, which finds Thomas fleeing an all-too-real demon in the form of Jack, who appears to haunt Jack just for the sheer fun of it. The term may also encompass Monahan’s personal sentiment about the industry that feeds him. Hollywood is unoriginally presented here as a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah, where sycophancy and soullessness reign and where characters like Norman (Mark Wahlberg), Thomas’ producing partner who is heavily into hookers and cocaine, roam. Wahlberg chews into his part with lip-smacking relish, but is too cartoonish for his own good.

    So what’s a man to do when he’s mired in such a cesspool surrounded by self-serving sinners? Is it possible to wash one’s sins away? Can one ever escape the devil inside? Thomas may have opened the film wondering what he wants, but the overall query is who he truly is. “Who are you?” Jack asks of Thomas. “No one in particular,” Thomas replies. “Anybody in general?” Jack counters. If this type of elliptical, circular conversation makes you happy, then Mojave is the mother lode you have been searching for.

    The main problem with Mojave is that it never escapes its own incoherence and mundanity. Monahan plays with a lot of interesting philosophical questions, but his dialogue is so willfully strained that it never sounds credible. Who actually replies to an introductory come-on with, “I’m already in a sufficiently disturbing relationship”? Apparently, in Monahan’s world, Thomas’ French mistress (Louise Bourgoin) does.

    Perhaps it wouldn’t matter so much if Thomas’ plight and his fate were worth caring about. It doesn’t help that Hedlund broods into the void. Thankfully, there is Isaac to provide both menace and comic relief. He almost makes this ponderous, noir-flecked meditation on the duality of man worth sitting through. Almost.

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