MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Mojave’ Hurls Everything At A Wall, Something Sticks

mojave

Film: Mojave
Directed by: William Monahan
Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Oscar Isaac, Walton Goggins

William Monahan, the Boston native who wrote Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, makes his second directorial effort with Mojave. The man clearly has a knack for writing people driven by their selfish anger, but always in a satirical and funny sense. Same thing happened with The Gambler, the 2014 drama with Mark Wahlberg that got unfairly maligned by critics. With Mojave, his sophomore effort, all that “men as assholes” material sticks. The story that all these men occupy? Not so much.

Suicidal writer, Thomas (Garrett Hedlund), has been having a rough time lately, especially since he feels guilty for cheating on his wife. A chance encounter with a homicidal drifter named Jack (Oscar Isaac) in the Mojave Desert ends up leaving Thomas on the run. Now, everyone he knows and loves in his danger. In danger because of his sins. There’s something about atoning here but it kind of gets lost in a mess of things.

Mojave takes on the premise of an artist wandering through the desert seriously. So seriously that the whole film takes on that same kind of meandering, constantly searching for some semblance of worth. That’s not to say that the whole thing’s a mess, but as a cohesive whole, Monahan’s sophomore effort falls apart at the seams.

If anything, there’s little to like about Thomas’ struggle to get over his rich white people problems and embrace the fact that he’s a respected employee of the Hollywood system. Your attention to everything can probably be gauged upon how much you care about Thomas. Hedlund plays the character with the same stone-faced resolve he brings to mostly every role. The problem is that here, playing the redeemable man, stone-faced only kills the impact. Luckily, Mojave has so many out-of-left-field tricks that you can’t help but admire its scattered approach.

“We’re all fucked anyway,” Walton Goggins’ agent type to Thomas snidely remarks as he takes a drag from a cigarette. The man is dressed in all black, like Johnny Cash, weirdly bringing a tale about a rich white man’s regrets back down to the level it so desperately needed. It’s weird asides like these littered throughout the story that keep things moving along at a breakneck pace. Not to mention that Oscar Isaac’s gold-toothed Jack constantly stumbles and fumbles onto success. There’s a certain degree of humor to be mined out of that. There are a select few scenes including Mark Wahlberg as a Hollywood producer that may be some of 2016’s first shining moments in film. It’s like your best friend showed up on set one day like a tornado, blazed through whatever was going on, and then left with a whimper.

But are most of these self-indicting moments serving a higher purpose or does it feel like Monahan’s just trying to make excuses for himself? The latter, in my opinion. But what’s left is a sporadically scathing take on Hollywood elitism sunk under layers upon layers of conceit. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a good time watching it.

GRADE: C+

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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