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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Mojave (Blu-ray)
Mojave (Blu-ray)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // April 5, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted April 12, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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Mojave, a new thriller by The Departed screenwriter William Monahan, paints a picture of an artist getting lost in the desert. Overwhelmed by what he feels are societal pressures placed on him to create a certain kind of art or be a certain kind of man, he spirals into a self-indulgent tailspin of half-baked ideas about deconstruction and rebirth.

Of course, I'm talking about Monahan and his movie here, although Mojave also happens to concern a character, Thomas (Garrett Hedlund), who is also an artist, and also drives out into the Mojave desert with some alcohol and maybe a desire to be eaten by wolves, because his privileged lifestyle is just so unsatisfying and empty. However, this story, and the conflict that arises when Thomas encounters Jack (Oscar Isaac), a potentially homicidal drifter who seems to know quite a bit about screenwriting and Moby Dick, all play second fiddle to Monahan making what amounts to a lengthy dissertation on the nature of action movies, the vapidity of Hollywood filmmaking, and how one tells a story.

Mojave premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2015, suggesting it sat around on the shelf for a little while as the distributor waited for Oscar Isaac's star to rise a little. Isaac is definitely the most intriguing aspect of the film, but...one might even say he's terrible in it, although it's hard to tell how much of his instincts stem out of the type of character he's been asked to play, a smarmy know-it-all who was likely insufferable on the page as well. This is a character that was written to chew the scenery, one whose eccentricities and self-deprecating humor are assumed in advance to be crowd-pleasers, delivered by Isaac through a goofy growl that reminds one of a subdued Randy "Macho Man" Savage, punctuated with "brother" until it becomes a bad joke. It's certainly an indication of Isaac's range, in that it's completely different from Llewyn Davis or Poe Dameron, and it feels like a complete character, but Jack is no fun to watch.

Thomas barely edges out Jack as the more interesting of the two characters, in that Monahan has no intention of lightening or reducing Thomas' sociopathic coldness. The film's central conflict arises when Thomas takes on a defensive position against Jack that is proved to be warranted later but is arguably irrational in the moment, leading to an incident that could result in Thomas going to prison. In some technical sense, Thomas is innocent, having been forced into a corner by Jack, but it's clear that Thomas doesn't feel an ounce of guilt about his part in any of what occurs throughout Mojave. Even the scenes where he tries to encourage his mistress (Louise Bourgoin) to leave the house in case Jack shows up to hurt her seem focused on Thomas' frustration that she refuses to listen rather than any actual concern for her safety. At one point, Jack asks Thomas, "Have you figured out who the bad guy is?", which is arguably the one moment of intrigue in all of Monahan's deconstruction.

The two share lengthy conversations about character motivation and story-building over a number of scenes (in the desert, in a bar, in Thomas' house), each of which feels like Monahan having a discussion with himself in front of a disinterested viewer. There might be a way to make the material work -- a violent Adaptation of sorts -- but Mojave isn't up for the challenge, further hobbled by molasses-like pacing and a tendency for flourishes in the conversation that are irritating rather than witty. One of the few minor bright spots is Mark Wahlberg in an uncredited, extended cameo as Thomas' financier, but even these have the ring of "Entourage" deleted scenes where Wahlberg gets to poke fun at his own bro image. As the frustrated expression of an artist, as a thriller, as a satire, and as a movie, Mojave isn't very good, but maybe the title works: the movie is like a desert.

The Blu-ray
Mojave goes with the old "heads" trick, with art featuring a split image of Hedlund and Isaac, and then throws in a bit of shameless commercialism with a quote that happens to mention Star Wars, just in case you weren't sure why Mojave was getting a Blu-ray release now. The one-disc release comes in an eco-friendly Blu-ray case, with an insert offering an UltraViolet Digital HD copy code, and the entire thing comes wrapped inside a matte slipcover featuring the same artwork.

The Video and Audio
Mojave's 2.39:1 1080p AVC video presentation and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio presentation are both perfectly adequate, achieving the levels of clarity that one expects out of a modern movie without ever going above and beyond in any meaningful way. As Monahan's real focus is in picking apart the genre, he doesn't bring much stylization to the film elsewhere, opting for a natural color palette (in relatively drab areas like the desert and Los Angeles at night), and focusing mostly on dialogue scenes between characters rather than big action beats (although there is the occasional bit of gunfire or a punch or two). The transfer does a good job keeping things delineated during darker scenes and the audio has a crispness and immediacy that serves the atmosphere well. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles are also included.

The Extras
Two extras are on tap, neither very exciting. "A Doppelganger and the Desert: Making Mojave" (8:55) is a short, EPK-style bit of fluff about the making of the movie, featuring Monahan, Isaac, and Hedlund talking about the project. There's also a selection of deleted scenes (16:40), which don't add much to the experience.

Trailers for Mississippi Grind, Amy, The End of the Tour, Room, and The Witch play before the main menu. No trailer for Mojave is included.

Mojave has high-minded ambitions but Monahan can't deliver on them, becoming too trapped in his own neuroses and self-analyzing to make a movie that the audience will find engaging as well. Skip it.

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