Review: Isaac electrifies in otherwise burnt ‘Mojave’

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“Mojave” is a dead end trip to the desert.

It follows Thomas (Garrett Hedlund), a misanthropic artist who heads to the middle of nowhere to blow off some steam, maybe kill himself, who knows? It’s there he meets Jack (Oscar Isaac), a homicidal drifter who totes around a shotgun while spouting long-winded theories about God, the devil and man’s place in the universe. He also says “brother” more than Hulk Hogan. Not the guy you want to run into at your campfire in the middle of the night.

Thomas is also not the guy Jack wants to come across. He’s superfamous — he’s likely an actor, though the film never makes it clear — but his bad boy streak runs deep, and he’s at his rope’s end. The two clash, wind up in a knife fight, and Jack stalks Thomas through the desert and back to his life in Los Angeles.

“Mojave” is never quite sure what it wants to be. At times it resembles an L.A. satire, with Mark Wahlberg playing an ex-drug dealer and a big-time Hollywood producer (he only dresses in bathrobes and bath towels) and Walton Goggins playing a spaced out lawyer who always has a cigarette hanging seven-eighths out of his mouth. Other times its a noirish thriller, with Jack taking over Thomas’ life and threatening to expose him to the world.

Ultimately — and despite an electrifying Isaac, who is psychotic, menacing and oddly charismatic — it flatlines. Its tone wavers wildly from serious to silly, and its half-baked climax comes off like a bad party trick. “Mojave” envisions the desert as a place where men go to find themselves, which is strange philosophizing for a movie suffering from an identity crisis.



Rated R for language and some violence

Running time: 93 minutes