In the early hours, hungover and afflicted by existential ennui, Hollywood wunderkind Thomas (Garrett Hedlund playing the kind of terminally cool, critically feted actor/director/artist filmmaking polymath Quentin Tarantino thinks he is in his own head) leaves the bed of the French actress, Milly (Louise Bourgin), he’s boffing while his wife and daughter are out of town and drives out into the Mojave desert intent on finding himself. By getting drunk, howling at the moon and indulging in a little self-destruction. Creatively and personally, you get the sense that Thomas may not be a happy bunny long before he’s courting death by pulling a knife on a pack of coyotes and inviting them to “Come on!”

But when death does come a-calling, it struts confidently into his camp on two legs. Wrecking his jeep, Thomas is forced to find his way back to civilisation on foot and, after setting up camp for the night, encounters loquacious, Wincheter-toting, desert rat Jack (Oscar Isaac), looking like he’s come straight from the set of a Fields Of The Nephilim video, who wanders out of the darkness to share Thomas’ coffee and campfire and trade Biblical parables, macho pretensions, tales of tough guy writers and share his existential philosophy.

Around the time Jack declares his dedication to “motiveless malignity” and unsheathes a blade that’d give Crocodile Dundee an erection, Thomas realises Jack may just be the psychotic nutbag serial killer leaving the bodies of hikers in the desert, and the verbal sparring gets a lot less verbal when he brains Jack and makes off with his rifle, Jack giving chase. In the ensuing game of cat-and-mouse, Thomas accidentally fatally shoots a park ranger, covering up the crime by planting Jack’s rifle at the scene, before catching a limo back to Hell-A and his pampered A-list lifestyle where he’s got a film stuck in post-production Purgatory and an asshole producer (Mark Wahlberg) just a cell phone rant away. But Thomas’sins return to hunt him when Jack tracks him back to Hollyweird and proceeds to start taking apart his life, just for the fun…

A dark, down-and-dirty psycho-thriller that’s the year’s most twisted buddy movie, they don’t make movies like Mojave very often anymore. A deliciously nasty little slice of existentialist neo-noir amorality, peopled almost exclusively by sociopathic scumbags, it reminds me a lot of movies from my youth like Bad Influence or The Last Seduction, Red Rock West or John Ridley’s Cold Around The Heart – but in a good way! Movies that were insidiously sleazy guilty pleasures full of terse, hard-bitten, tough guy dialogue and sporadic explosions of violence as the sweatily ambiguous antagonists tangoed around each other in an intricate dance of death.

Mixing in a liberal dose of Hollywood satire, there’s a sly intellectualism to William Monahan’s Mojave that’s refreshing, even going so far as to have our two main characters, opposite sides of the same coin, discuss the finer points of George Bernard Shaw while one beats the piss out the other with a piece of wood. And, while there’s genre thrills to be had in Mojave, it’s the literate script that excites, the verbal duels, Jack asking: “Do you believe in the duality of man?” “No,” replies Thomas. “I believe in infinite complexity.” “How many more is that than duality?” “A lot.” Snarled one-liners like “Are there any other rhetorical questions you need me to answer?” Or Milly’s response when Thomas warns her he’s being stalked by a psychopath is to simply shrug, bored, and say: “A stalker? I have 27 of them, and that’s not counting the ones in jail.”

Obviously relishing the chance to tear into the material, the performances are almost as great a joy as the dialogue, Isaac delivering a ferociously funny, malevolent turn as Jack that makes you wish someone would give him a full-on comedic role. Always magnetic, whether he’s grunged up and waxing lyrical around the campfire or strutting around an LA mansion in pink trunks with a murder victim’s terrier he’s adopted, you can’t take your eyes of him.

Hedlund’s equally good in the less showy role of Thomas, a leather-clad mix of Steve McQueen, Kurt Cobain and Jeff Hunter in Nicholas Ray’s King Of Kings he’s a study in cool and, like Hunter’s Jesus, meets and is tempted by his own personal Satan in the desert in Isaac’s Jack. With his world of privilege and lack of conscience, Thomas may actually be the far more dangerous of the two, Jack asking: “Do you know which one of us is the bad guy yet?”

While Walton Goggins as Thomas’ louche agent and Wahlberg’s coked-up, bathrobe-sporting producer (endlessly calling up for Chinese food and hookers) provide sly comic relief and Bourgin is solid as the damsel who never actually finds herself in distress, Mojave is all about the homicidal bromance between it’s two leads, the kind of film that starts as it ends, in the desert, with two men trying to kill each other.

Like Hedlund’s moody artist, Mojave is a film that at it’s heart is asking “When you get what you want, what do you want?” Monahan’s answer seems to be dark, bitter, twisted fun and a fellow sociopath to share it with. Can any of us ask for more?

Movie Review: Mojave
4.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author