VOD film review: Mojave
James R | On 26, Mar 2016
Director: William Monahan
Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Oscar Isaac
Watch Mojave online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“To be or not to be, right?” grins Jack in Mojave, a sign that he – and the film – are both literary and philosophical. He says it several more times over the ensuing 90 minutes just to make sure. Then, every now and then, he remembers that there’s a plot that he should probably getting on with.
The narrative, ironically, is extremely quick and simple: Hollywood writer Thomas (Hedlund) decides to go and ‘find himself’ in the desert away from the jaded world of LA, only for Jack (Isaac) to stumble across his campfire. A strangely threatening conversation later and guns have been fired, tensions have risen and Thomas and Jack are on an inevitable collision course. Thomas returns home to LA, but is followed by his new friend, who starts to pop up and pose more meaningful questions about life, the universe and everything.
Does this stalker want to harm Thomas? Become his BFF? Will he shoot him? Stab him? Talk him to death? It’s anyone’s guess, as director William Monahan’s script repeatedly pushes back any resolution to their brewing conflict. Instead of story progression, we merely get a string of weighty debates, each one striving to be Michael Mann or Cormac McCarthy, but falling disappointingly short of the mark. That’s despite the cast giving it their all, with Hedlund embracing his character’s spoiled, brooding look, while Isaac throws every gram of charisma he has at the screen, channeling his unbalanced genius from Ex Machina to deliver a similar mix of smiles and threatening stares.
In between all this, Monahan also uses his setting as a springboard for some satirical jabs at Hollywood, with Mark Wahlberg making an appearance as an obnoxious producer. It’s the kind of comedic role Wahlberg has really made his own over the years, all fast-talking and foul-mouthed – indeed, he put in just that kind of performance in The Departed, which Monahan also wrote. To the writer-director’s credit, the two strands don’t feel quite as disjointed here as they might, but that’s not to say either feels particularly compelling. The pace is permanently hobbled by the interminable speeches, preventing Mojave from building enough momentum as a thriller, while the dialogue feels too derivative and forced to work as something more existential. “Who are you?” asks Thomas when they meet. “No one in particular,” says Jack. “Anyone in general?” comes the reply.
On the spectrum of showing or telling, Mojave doesn’t just choose to tell – it writes a whole book about why it made that decision. The chance to see Isaac quoting Shakespeare is something that would normally be unmissable (you can imagine him making a good Macbeth), but Mojave is sadly so busy asking whether to be or not that it doesn’t comes up with a satisfying answer – leaving the audience to sleep, perchance to dream.
Mojave is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.