REVIEW: Mojave

19 01 2016

MojaveYou 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? C2stars

REVIEW: Edge of Darkness

27 07 2010

Some movies are no one’s idea of a masterpiece. Martin Campbell, who directed the acclaimed “Casino Royale,” made the pretty average “The Legend of Zorro” as well. William Monahan, who won the Oscar for writing “The Departed,” was also responsible for bringing middle-of-the-road entertainment like “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Body of Lies” to the screen. Mel Gibson, who starred in the beloved “Braveheart,” has more than a few rotten movies littering his mostly impressive resume.

Then there are movies that are no one’s idea of good, and each of the three men above did their part to bring about the disaster that is “Edge of Darkness.” It’s a tragic misstep for all – deplorably written, poorly directed, and miserably acted.

The movie is that same kind of revenge thriller that he has been attracted to in the past (“Ransom” and “Payback,” just to name a few), only it has an unnecessary and convoluted backstory of political intrigue. We’d be plenty happy to watch Mel kick butt and take names, as I suspect that’s the main reason a lot of people have wanted to see this movie. But we only get a YouTube video-length glimpse of the untethered Gibson, which is apparently not too much different than the actor himself.

Instead, we are forced to watch him to try to act stricken with sadness and grief as he mourns his murdered daughter. It borders on painful to watch him try, especially whenever he talks to her as if she walks beside him. Eventually, he puts on the mask of vengeance and winds up caught in his daughter’s web of political intrigue. He starts messing with some massive power players. For him, it’s personal, but for them, it’s business. Eventually, the story becomes tiring and tedious, and all we want is to see Mel Gibson unleashed. That’s not too much to ask for, is it? But Monahan and Campbell insist on trying to craft a “smart thriller,” something they are incapable of doing at least on this movie.

“Edge of Darkness” is more of an epitaph than a movie. Gather here to mourn these fallen talents, it seems to cry. Perhaps Monahan needs Scorsese’s vision to succeed; perhaps Campbell needs the stakes of a hero like James Bond to make a movie work; perhaps Mel Gibson just needs some help. C- /