Movie Review: Mojave

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A chance encounter in the desert leads to a screenwriter being stalked by a dangerous psycopath.

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William Monahan, 2015

During a drunken sojourn to “find himself” in the Mojave desert, screenwriter Tom (Garrett Hedlund) is joined at his campfire by traveller Jack (Oscar Isaac). The conversation takes a dark turn real fast, and soon enough Tom is threatening Jack to send him on his way. Jack responds by stalking Tom across the desert. The strain takes its toll on Tom, with deadly consequences. When Tom returns to his real life in LA, Jack follows, threatening to reveal Tom’s secret. Tom attempts to protect the people he cares about from his murderous stalker, while Jack attempts to make Tom see that the two of them aren’t that different after all.

mojave-poster-lg.jpg

Even in this poster the talent gap is real.

Mojave is a terrible movie. It is pretentious wankery nonsense, the worst kind of “write what you know” garbage sprinkled with nihilism and quotes from old white writers that the filmmakers (particularly the Oscar-winning screenwriter/director William Monahan, who also wrote for Oscar Isaac in Body of Lies) clearly idolise. The movie doesn’t seem to like any of its characters, and the audience is given no reason to care about them. Tom kicks off the movie by ditching all his responsibilities to run off to the desert. We hear the voices of his estranged wife and daughter, but we don’t actually see them or his interactions with them, which makes it hard to care. His French girlfriend, apparently the kind of woman who isn’t put off no matter how horrible the guy she’s dating is, also lacks significant presence. One of the more interesting sequences in the film does involve a threat to her, but it’s resolved much too easily, and it never really feels like she’s in danger. Then again, the sense of threat in general is awfully low in this movie; perhaps it’s because, despite Oscar Isaac’s and the script’s best efforts to tell us how terrible Jack is, it takes a long time for him to really feel like a threat. This is especially hard to parse thanks to Tom’s incredibly low likeability factor.

Garrett Hedlund exhibits all the charm and charisma of a slightly slimy brick with bits of scarecrow straw stuck to his face as Tom. He is profoundly dull, and profoundly unlikeable. I found myself repeatedly wishing for Jack to just kill Tom and get the movie over with – at least that way none of the slightly less horrendous characters would have to die over their beef. Jack is painted as Tom’s dark doppelganger, the Faith to his Buffy, the Joker to his Batman. Really, though, Tom is a pretty appalling version of himself. He’s selfish and self-righteous, obsessed with his own talent. The film also presents the concept that Jack was artistically gifted and never given a chance to shine, and the pressure from that turned him into a homicidal loon. It never really tracks with the character, whose idea of intelligence seems to be an ability to quote pretentious nonsense at will; we even hear a song performed by Oscar Isaac in-character and he actually sings worse than I know Oscar’s capable of. The film is infinitely more interesting when Isaac is on screen, but only because he seems to actually want to be in this film, unlike Garrett Hedlund. The only other character to make an impact is Marky Mark Wahlberg’s foul-mouthed agent, who seems to be having a blast. His energy is on a different level from anyone else in the film, and it picks up the action. The film’s final scene is its best scene, with the final confrontation between Tom and Jack providing some actual tension after the slowest build-up ever. Still, this is definitely a movie that never needed making.

Mojave on IMDb

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