Failing on all cylinders
It’s whimsically curious that Hollywood has delivered two stylistically polar-opposite films about disillusioned Hollywood writers in such quick succession, and that they are both, for equally different reasons, flagrant wastes of time and talent.William Monahan, who has written a number of well-regarded screenplays (including for the inferior Infernal Affairs remake, Scorsese’s The Departed), hasn’t fared quite as well behind the camera himself, with his debut feature, the Colin Farrell/Keira Knightley vehicle London Boulevard – a flawed but stylistically decent first film which evokes a certain Get Carter vibe – flopping at the Box Office and seeing any follow-up film put on a back-burner until now. Here he takes current hot property Oscar Isaac (whose memorable support in Drive, and impressive lead with Inside Llewyn Davis, was followed by a strong turn in the superb sci-fi gem Ex Machina and, of course, now a promising Blockbuster future in Star Wars) and throws him into the desert as a wig-wearing, bad-toothed hillbilly drifter who inexplicably confronts a wandering lost soul rich Hollywood brat, played by Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy), insinuates that he’s the devil, and then equally inexplicably tells him that he spends his time preying on strangers lost in the desert. What could have been an intriguing cat-and-mouse horror/thriller in the vein of The Hitcher actually stalls before it even gets started.Isaac proves to be a woefully ineffective threat, with Hedlund instead returning to his vacuous rich kid life, despite all that has happened. As a result their subsequent encounters feel like they’re out of a completely different movie – one where something actually happens. Perhaps Monahan was attempting to take a skewed look at Hollywood emptiness (in the same way as Malick’s Knight of Cups) and introduce this ‘devil persona’ as a reflection of the more malevolent side to the character of the Hollywood player himself, which is desperate to come out. Perhaps instead it was an attempt to play out an alternatively-styled version of a more traditional cat-and-mouse psychopath flick. Whatever Monahan's original intention was, the end result is a deeply flawed and ineffective film, with the cast unable to make their characters even interesting, let alone sympathetic. Despite the attempts to stray from the norm, the script is a walking Hollywood cliché about Hollywood’s emptiness, and instead proves itself woefully empty.
Picture QualityCuriously dull and lifeless, Mojave also drops the ball in terms of its video.
Hitting Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1, Mojave seldom makes the most of either its broad open desert vistas, or of the more luxurious Hollywood settings, providing a distinctly lacklustre visual accompaniment which has more in common with the 90s thrillers that it feels like it - in part - wants to emulate. Detail is stronger in the desert sequences, although far from exceptional, and the desert of the title is never showcased in any way that it would deserve, despite the director's clear desire to - occasionally - try something stylish. The city sequences are arguably even more of a let-down, however, and the accompanying colour scheme appears further robbed of any vitality, perhaps indicative of the tone, but nonetheless merely adding to the tedium. With disappointing black levels only further compounding the problems there's little that cries demo about this presentation, which does its job, but seldom with aplomb, and, just like the film itself, similarly largely wastes promising ingredients
Sound QualityThe audio track is at least solid, if unmemorable.
Mojave's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track promotes all the key elements - dialogue, effects and the score - suitably well, promoting the dialogue with firm prioritisation across the frontal array, clearly and coherently, whilst disseminating most of the naturally-observed effects across the array. Despite this, the environments seldom come to life, with the desert bleak but not expansive; the Hollywood hills busy but not bustling, and never a sense of true atmosphere. The score is arguably a cut above the feature which it plays over - although this is not a particularly high standard to achieve - but this often only serves to highlight the inadequacies of the film itself. Still, at least that gives the surrounds a little more to do, and comes across well aurally. A solid but far from exceptional accompaniment .
Blu-ray VerdictThe Hitcher meets Malick's Knight of Cups for another lesson in wasted talent and ineffective storytelling.
Even the Blu-ray release is flawed and disappointing, at least in terms of video and extras, with the audio simply remaining unexceptional, leaving this a rental only if you're really keen, and a disappointment all-round considering the talent involved.
You can buy Mojave on Blu-ray here
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