“Mojave” began its theatrical run in Houston at AMC Gulf Point starting today.
Thomas (Garrett Hedlund) has been in the spotlight for far too long. As an actor who has been famous since he was on the brink of turning 20, Thomas has become numb to the business. He wants to escape it all, so he isolates himself in the middle of nowhere without telling anyone of his whereabouts. While on this journey of solitude, Thomas encounters a drifter named Jack (Oscar Isaac): a man who feeds on unsuspecting travelers. However Thomas is able to foresee what Jack is planning and gets the better of him.
On his way back to town, Thomas accidentally commits a heinous crime that Jack witnesses. As Thomas attempts to cover his tracks, Jack stalks his prey and creeps into the life of the man he so desperately wants to kill.
From William Monahan, the writer of “The Gambler,” “Edge of Darkness,” and “The Departed,” “Mojave” is only the second feature film Monahan has ever directed. The film is peculiar since it feels like it’s split into three acts; witnessing Thomas aimlessly roam around, Thomas’ cover-up and Jack’s wicked preparations before meeting Thomas again, and the cat and mouse game between the two of them.
This film is extremely out of the ordinary in its execution. It’s an independent thriller that has elements of a horror film and is colorful and abstract in a way that’s similar to Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor.” “Mojave” is a vicious game of tug of war between Thomas and Jack with neither getting the upper hand until that pivotal moment when it’s finally over.
The cast is impressive even if most of the roles aren’t completely utilized to their full potential. Matt Jones, who you’ll probably recognize from “Breaking Bad,” is around long enough to have a brief conversation with Garrett Hedlund. Mark Wahlberg shows shades of his character Sean Dignam from “The Departed,” but is a drug dealer turned producer obsessed with himself and his own sexual appetite. Then there’s Walter Goggins who first appears wearing nothing except a pair of white briefs, ankle socks, and sneakers. Goggins, whose character Jim seems purposely subdued and emotionless, delivers one of the best lines in the film: “Take a left, take a right, we’re all f***** anyway.”
Garrett Hedlund as Thomas has this Heath Ledger quality to him in Mojave that may just be circling back to his desire to stay out of the public eye and inability to just smile and swallow what comes with the business. Thomas is also selfish and goes through women faster than the alcohol he surrounds himself with.
Oscar Isaac is extraordinary as Jack. He has this enigmatic aura throughout the film. You’re unable to decipher what the intentions are from either man, which is perhaps where “Mojave” won’t be fully appreciated. Isaac’s charisma has the opportunity to shine through two different appearances. Whether it’s through long, stringy, dark hair while wearing a dirty hat and frayed trench coat and constantly rambling about Jesus or rubbing his freshly shaved head while eating cereal with milk dripping down his grizzled chin in his pink speedo covered by nothing but a gaping bathrobe, Isaac truly shines as a raving sociopath. His grungy, low speaking dialogue and two gold teeth only stains the character further and solidifies his spot as the film’s unkempt and unpredictable antagonist.
There’s no good or bad in “Mojave.” Both men have done unspeakable things, so there isn’t that internal struggle of seeing one side prevail over the other. Some will view the film as this humdrum thriller that drifts along without ever really going anywhere. The Jack character along with his interactions with Thomas are what make this crime thriller interesting; that conversation at the campfire and the other one later on at the bar are the two best scenes in the film. The sequences seem to be direct homage to the incredible restaurant scene in “Heat.” These are two sides of the same coin with one side rebelling against the dominant half.
“Mojave” is a devilish tale that allows the audience to take a front seat to a madman’s intentions. The film wanders into strange territory, but it’s the interactions between the two leads that make “Mojave” a worthwhile film. Oscar Isaac is a scene-stealing unstable tornado of lunacy that is scary good whenever he’s on screen.