Director: William Monahan.
Screenplay: William Monahan.
Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Oscar Isaac, Mark Wahlberg, Walton Goggins, Louise Bourgoin, Matt Jones, Fran Kranz, Niall Madden, Ron Duncan, Oliver Cooper.
“When you get what you want, what do you want?”
After winning an Oscar for his taught and labyrinthine screenplay duties on Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, William Monahan decided to embark on his own directorial projects. His debut was the misjudged, crime drama London Boulevard which, although not entirely successful, still had some flourishes of substance. Now, with Mojave, Monahan delivers a huge surprise. A surprise, that an Oscar winning writer can deliver something so woefully inadequate.
Tortured, put upon, artist Thomas (Garrett Hedlund) heads into the desert to find himself and what he wants from life. What he finds is Jack (Oscar Isaac), a tortured, homicidal drifter which leads to Thomas committing a deadly act that he can’t run away from. Jack intends to remind him of it by following him back to L.A. to challenge him to face up to it while destroying his privileged lifestyle in the process.In the interests of fairness, I have to admit that Mojave’s premise in two suicidal guys who find themselves hunting one another is a promising one. But that’s also what makes the film so frustrating. It has the potential to be an intense, cat-and-mouse revenge tale but never builds on it’s promise. There’s also a potential intelligence to the film as it makes references to Shakespeare, T.E. Lawrence and explores the philosophical theory of the duality of man. It seems to wear it’s existential heart on it’s sleeve and the characters talk a good game but Monahan never delivers anything other than words. And even then, some of it is incomprehensible drivel that’s dressed up to sound deep. He lacks the ability crank up the tension when it’s plain to see that the film is squandering it’s positives right before your eyes.
To be frank, the problem is with the writing. Plot developments are woefully and insultingly handled; one instance, in particular, has a police officer make a random appearance in the middle of the desert without any explanation as to why he’s there. The only reason is to move the plot along and that’s not the only time this happens throughout the film. It’s problems like this that lead to the realisation that Monahan is not showing any attention to detail and seemingly doesn’t care that he’s insulting his audiences intelligence.Having Garrett Hedlund as the lead doesn’t help matters either; he simply doesn’t have the gravitas to carry the film and it’s very difficult to find any sympathy for his privileged, self-important character. The least said about Mark Wahlberg’s presence, the better. He has nothing to do but hang around in a dressing gown and entertain hookers and it’s hard to fathom why he even made an appearance at all.
There really is only one redeeming feature and that’s Isaac. He adds layer upon interesting layer on his Mephistophelian character and affords him a depth that I’d wager was missing from the script. Monahan doesn’t even deserve the talent and commitment of Isaac here; his effortless magnetism gives the film a much needed lift whenever he’s onscreen but it’s still not enough to save the film overall.Underdeveloped and underwhelming nonsense. The one oasis in this film is the committed work of Isaac but other than him, the content of Mojave is as dry, barren and unproductive as it’s title suggests.Mark Walker
Trivia: Oscar Isaac and Garrett Hedlund previously appeared together in Inside Llewyn Davis while Mark Wahlberg and Hedlund worked together on Four Brothers, as the oldest and youngest of the four, respectively.