You know how Al Pacino is one of the greatest actors of his generation, yet is still in such films so obviously beneath him as “The Humbling?” Or how Robert DeNiro does movies like “Stone?” Well, if Oscar Isaac is one of the great actors of our time (see: “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “A Most Violent Year”), then”Mojave” is like his “The Humbling” or “Stone.” It’s a chance to cut loose and maybe get some of the negative impulses out before having to deliver a real, controlled performance.
“Mojave” comes from the mind of William Monahan, who gave the world a real gift with his script for “The Departed” … but also a lump of coal with “Edge of Darkness,” the last non-ironic Mel Gibson movie. It’s a literate work but also one of overwrought, overblown pretension. Isaac hams up his character, the mysterious desert drifter Jack, and seems to be enjoying himself. If only I could have shared in that feeling.
He gets an enjoyable moment here and there, but these are never enough to redeem – much less cohere – the mess that is “Mojave.” The film dabbles in far too many genres, sub-genres and plot digressions that I do not really know what to call it.
Monahan begins the film with Garrett Hedlund’s Thomas, a frustrated actor (the most severely underrepresented group on film – NOT), who meets Jack in the desert while trying to escape his life. The two share an exaggerated, overly articulate conversation, but it’s at least compelling. For whatever reason, I had the impression the movie would be a pure two-hander. “Mojave” might have been better had Monahan kept it this way, just letting the two men feed off each other. Hedlund could certainly use a meatier role; he has yet to further develop the charisma shown in 2012’s underseen “On the Road.” But Monahan mostly just leaves him to sulk. Actors, you know? C /