sun 03/07/2022

Mojave | reviews, news & interviews

Mojave

Mojave

Wordy, disappointingly mundane doppelgänger thriller from William Monahan

Garrett Hedlund and Oscar Isaac in William Monahan's 'Mojave': hard to care who comes out on top

When a film’s two leads start debating George Bernard Shaw in the middle of a fight to the death, you know you’re in trouble. In fact, Shakespeare, Byron, Melville, Rimbaud and plenty more all get namechecked in William Monahan’s pretentious doppelgänger thriller. With a bit more flair and wit, and a little less sententious self-importance, Mojave could have ended up as an outrageously entertaining parody. Instead, it just feels self-obsessed and disappointingly mundane.

It doesn’t help that the two leads in question are so thoroughly unsympathetic. Garrett Hedlund (pictured below) plays Hollywood pretty boy Thomas, famous since he was 19 (he tells us) and who in a fit of existential ennui heads off into the desert of the movie’s title. There he encounters Oscar Isaac’s brooding, bearded loner Jack, who steals into his camp and helps himself to a cup of coffee. There’s a fight, a flight and a killing. And when Jack follows Thomas back to LA with knowledge of the crime the young actor has inadvertently committed, a weary cat-and-mouse game heads inevitably to the only denouement possible.MojaveMonahan won an Oscar in 2007 for his screenplay to The Departed, and Mojave is nothing if not proud of its own rather deliberate dialogue – ludicrously so at times. There are some wonderfully memorable lines, admittedly. "You can stick it up your ass! Right up your bum!" from Mark Wahlberg’s dressing-gown-garbed film producer Norman is a cracker. So is Jack’s pronouncement, "I could read when I was two, man!" – which only serves to epitomise the needy one-upmanship at the film’s core. "Do you know who’s the bad guy yet?" asks Jack, once he’s set off to track down Thomas. It’s a good question in the context of a film about murky morals and dubious revenge. What director Monahan seems to be asserting is that an over-indulged Hollywood star is probably more morally bankrupt than a psychotic, serial-killing drifter. The problem is that we simply don’t care – neither of them gains our sympathy.

At least not with the personalities that Monahan sketches in for Hedlund and Isaac. Hedlund does a good grizzled Brad Pitt impression as Thomas, but his decrepit mansion – overgrown tennis courts, rancid swimming pool, the lot – tells us more about his state of mind than his opaque character ever does. Isaac injects a bit of volatile life into the film whenever he’s on screen, but it’s hard not to end up counting just how many sentences he ends with the word "brother". More entertaining by far are Monahan’s supporting cast, in particular Wahlberg’s producer Norman, flanked by empty Chinese takeout boxes and bored prostitutes, and Walton Goggins’s inscrutable, spaced-out agent Jim.

Soon after its desert set-up, Mojave feels like it’s about to head away from hackneyed genre tropes into something far more provocative and interesting. Then it steps back. There’s so much that Monahan could have explored, both within his story’s themes and in the traditions of cinema itself. In the end, though, the film’s true star is Don Davis’s sumptuous desert cinematography. But then again, with locations like Mojave’s, it’s hard to get that wrong.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Mojave

Jack’s pronouncement 'I could read when I was two, man!' only serves to epitomise the needy one-upmanship at the film’s core

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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