If ever there was a movie that catered to pseudo-intellectual junkies who lacked the actual insight to tie together their thoughts, this would be it. There is an argument to be made that this whole film is a self-aware joke concerning the seriousness of Hollywood writers and actors. More likely, it’s just a crappy movie that is trying too hard.
In this intense classical thriller, from an original screenplay by Oscar-winning writer William Monahan (The Departed), a violent artist, Thomas, (Garrett Hedlund) has an ominous encounter in the desert with a homicidal, chameleon-like drifter, Jack, (Oscar Isaac). Jack follows Thomas back to his privileged L.A. home life, holding a dark secret over his head as he attempts to infiltrate and destroy his seemingly-perfect life. Thomas must come to terms with his own insecurities and self-doubt to protect himself and his family, and go head-to-head with his nemesis in a riveting two-man clash that plays out in exciting and unexpected ways. (Synopsis by Atlas Entertainment)
Successful films generally rely on a central theme that can tie together multiple disparate pieces into one cohesive narrative. “Mojave” doesn’t even bother having a point. At several points you are going to wonder if you simply fell asleep and then woke up at a different point in the movie. Alas, no, this film just doesn’t even try to make sense most of the time. For some reason, two men decide to try to kill each other because… they are both in the desert? Of course, we need to have the farcical bad guy (Oscar Isaac trying so hard to salvage this) quote a bunch of deeply intense philosophical ponderings while on this murderous vision quest. The point is, this thing is such a mess it is hard to even describe what is happening, much less why things are happening.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that this is some kind of farce on the movie industry. There are elements that can be interpreted as an almost Lynchian take on the Hollywood beast. Writers, producers, and actors are all shown in varying degrees of fulsome behavior. In a certain sense, the “devil” in the desert (Isaac) is the sanest of the characters depicted. He has a singular purpose and moves towards it with efficiency. The rest of the Hollywood stereotypes are some combination of hedonistic and criminal. Their depiction is one so trapped in the game that is the Hollywood process that they have become less than human.
But even that analysis is grasping at so many straws it isn’t worth the effort. There simply isn’t a coherent thought or rational interpretation to be made of “Mojave.” If—and that’s a big if—this film is trying to be something more than a poorly-made thriller, it is too far over the line into obtuse symbolism to even be watchable. Sometimes it’s art, but other times it’s just crap.
See It/ Rent It/ Skip It: Skip it. It’s as insufferable as a freshman philosophy major.
ONE STAR out of four.
Directed by William Monahan
Rated R for language and some violence.
Runtime: 1 hour and 33 minutes