Burned out by the Hollywood lifestyle, disaffected celebrity Tom (Garrett Hedlund) journeys into the desert to clear his head, but the tranquility and solitude of his overnight stay is interrupted by the arrival of Jack (Oscar Isaac), a drifter who wanders into Tom’s campsite with a rifle slung over his back and gets just a little too chummy with his new acquaintance. The conversation becomes heated, an altercation ensues, and Jack finds himself stripped of his firearm and left unconscious in the dirt as Tom hightails it for the comfort of the big city lights.
But unfortunately for Tom, that particular rifle holds a special place in the heart of its original owner, and Jack isn’t one to let his possessions be taken away quite so easily. He (quite implausibly) pursues the actor all the way back to Los Angeles, manages to find out Tom’s home address within a few minutes of logging onto the internet, and soon begins closing in on his prey.
The basic premise of Mojave (opening at Filmbar on January 22nd) isn’t bad, but the film’s problems lie in writer/director William Monahan’s unnecessarily extravagant dialogue and tone-deaf direction. Isaac’s scenery-chewing performance, as he affects a gravelly drawl and uses the word “brother” more times than Hulk Hogan, is far too silly to evoke any kind of real menace, and Hedlund’s ultra-serious portrayal of a rich white guy who’s pissed at the world because he’s too famous does little to endear the audience to his character.
We’re also introduced to a bizarre collection of supporting players, including Walton Goggins as Tom’s shady lawyer (or agent – the film never really makes this clear), and Mark Wahlberg as a coked-up film producer whose entire wardrobe seems to consist entirely of silk pajamas. Both performances feel as though they belong in a completely different movie.
Mojave could have made for an excellent B-movie, and is at its best when it veers in that direction. But far too often the proceedings are bogged down by the main characters discussing philosophical principles and trading Shakespeare quotes. The script is incoherent at times and full of contrivances at others, and the whole experience feels pretentious, disingenuous, and not terribly entertaining.
Tone-deaf direction, pretentious dialogue and tonal inconsistencies turn what could've been a decent B-grade thriller into an experiment that seems designed to test the audience's tolerance for sub-par filmmaking.