Written & Directed by William Monahan
Tom is an incredibly famous and successful Hollywood director who is drowning the sorrows of his personal life in alcohol and partying. After a particularly draining bender, he drives his jeep off into the Mojave Desert for some solace. Tom is in an accident that flips his vehicle over, and he continues on foot only to encounter a malevolent stranger who is stalking the sands. Jack is a grizzled and articulate man wandering the desert armed with a hunting rifle. Tom suspects no good can come of this and a physical struggle ensues that leaves Tom with the gun and on the run from Jack. Tom’s paranoia leads to a tragic mistake that Jack intends to use against him even after the director escapes the desert.
The premise of this film sounds promising, but it has to be one of the most pretentious, overblown pieces of garbage I have seen in a long time. Many factors lead to this film being such a horrible lump of trash and the first among them is writer-director William Monahan. You probably know if his work because he was the screenwriter of The Departed and The Kingdom of Heaven. Those films are a great example of why directors need to tame the script and shape it into something that will play well on screen. Just because someone wrote a script doesn’t mean they know best how to make it come to life. Monahan delivers a perfect of example of this throughout Mojave.
The one element that will grate on you the most while watching Mojave is the dialogue. Monahan wants to sound witty and smart like Tarantino, but when he aspires to the height of his pomposity, we get daft references to Shakespeare and language play that lands with a thud. I was aghast at how bad Oscar Isaac’s performance is as Jack, the antagonist is embarrassing. He takes on this bizarre affected accent which includes the word “brother” in every other sentence. It’s not Isaac’s fault, but the god awful lines he is given. I can’t imagine what must have been going through his mind on set.
However, worse than Isaac and the protagonist of the picture is human blank piece of paper Garrett Hedlund. Hedlund is that actor who when you see him on the screen causes you to say, “Hey, is that Armie Hammer?” He’s starred in many films I’ve already seen (Tron: Legacy, Peter Pan, Troy) yet I didn’t realize that until I looked him up on IMDB. He doesn’t disappoint having met the perfect script for his particular style of mediocrity. It allows him to brood in a series of masterful angst-y poses and spout more of Monahan’s patented lines of tone deafness.
The premise behind Mojave is intended to be this profound statement on the perils of fame, but it would take a more subtle hand and thoughtful writer to deliver the movie Monahan is after. There are a series of tête-à-têtes between Jack and Tom that are supposed to be the high marks of the film. Instead, they feel like an overly enthusiastic film student’s writing that binged on film noir but doesn’t have the craft to make it into their own thing. Instead of being riveted in their verbal tennis match you wish these two douchebags would kill each other already. It also doesn’t help that the supporting cast (Walton Goggins, Mark Wahlberg) are painted in such one-dimensional strokes that they are incapable of adding anything to the proceedings. It’s incredibly sad to go from the heights of Mississippi Grind and Room to opening A24’s 2016 with this crap.