Mojave features committed performance from its leads, but its badly executed overwritten screenplay turns what is supposed to be an introspective drama into a pretentious existential crisis with 93 minutes of pseudo-intellectual gibberish.

Thomas (Garrett Hedlund), a brilliant, near-suicidal artist, attempts to escape his privileged existence into the desert only to encounter a homicidal, chameleon-like drifter—Jack (Oscar Isaac). Their first encounter at a campfire sets up a nonstop, violent duel of physical and intellectual equals.

Poor privileged people, they just don’t know what to do with their lives eh? Mojave is basically a tale about a successful yet tortured screenwriter.

Visually, the movie is able to reflect the internal struggle of its lead character. Production design showcases a crumbling estate somewhere in Los Angeles that reflects the hollow lifestyle and unstable mind of its owner. Elsewhere, there’s a pervading sense of emptiness – the quiet town, the empty bar, and the barren desert. Cinematography makes the best out of desert silhouettes and rock formations to stage a conflict between its characters.

Oscar Isaac and Garrett Hedlund both try their best to work with the material they’re given. Both of them are watchable enough in their roles, but it’s because of their performance instead of the script.

No matter how much they try to deliver their nonsensical lines as best as they could, Mojave is an overwritten story that doesn’t amount to anything.

The first half of the movie starts intriguing enough. The two men meet in the desert and have an unpleasant encounter. However, there is no convincing motivation nor a compelling reason for them to be each other’s arch nemesis. Worse, the movie becomes a slasher flick instead of following through with its premise.

The movie does make an effort to show Jack’s antics and Thomas’ troubles despite the protracted set-up, but the characters are comical and unrelatable. One is a lunatic who isn’t much of a threat and spouts gibberish presented as intellectual musings. The other is one of those tortured souls you want to punch so they can check their privilege. The rest of the cast are underwritten and unnecessary characters, including a stereotypical fast talking douche bro played by Mark Wahlberg, a vaguely defined slow talking friend (?) played by Walton Goggins, and a french mistress stuck in the “woman in refrigerators” trope played by Louise Bourgoin.

Eventually the suspense-less cat and mouse game ends but leads to an anticlimactic pay-off. In the end the movie tries to tell us about duality and morality but doesn’t have the material to support it.

Overall, Mojave is just another pretentious indie film straining for intellectual depth.

My Rating: 3/10

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