dir-scr William Monahan
prd Aaron L Ginsburg, William Green, Justine Suzanne Jones, William Monahan
with Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund, Walton Goggins, Mark Wahlberg, Louise Bourgoin, Hayley Magnus, Fran Kranz, Dania Ramirez, Matt Jones, Kylie Rogers, Vivis Colombetti, Karen E Wright
release US 22.Jan.16, UK tbc
15/US 1h33
Stalker from hell: Isaac and Hedlund

goggins wahlberg bourgoin
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Mojave A present-day Western, this clumsily directed and edited thriller features characters who are so badly defined that nothing that happens to them is interesting or believable. It looks very cool, but everything is far too aloof to come to life, and the characters and relationships are so vague that there's very little tension in even the nastiest situations.

After his fling with a famous costar (Bourgoin) ends, shaggy actor Thomas (Hedlund) heads out into the desert to disappear. In the middle of nowhere, he meets talkative tracker Jack (Isaac), who pretends to be the devil. Thomas doesn't take that very well and flees, discovering that there's been a series of murders in the area. But Jack follows Thomas back to Los Angeles, where he's working on a film with two arrogant producers (Goggins and Wahlberg). As Jack continues to follow and taunt him, Thomas has a good reason to be paranoid.

Monahan's script is packed with literary quotes and cod philosophy, opening with a question: when you get what you want, what do you want? But all we want to know is: who are these people and why should we be interested in them? Monahan deliberately obscures the true natures of these characters and their connections. He assembles the film as a random collection of grunge-rock images that will clearly make sense eventually if the audience is patient enough. But without any clear context, there's simply no suspense.

Performances are loose and sometimes a bit too edgy, as if the actors aren't quite sure who these hipster characters are. But they add details that hold the interest even as Monahan leaves them oddly undefined (the female characters barely exist at all). Isaac has the most fun as an unhinged chatterbox stalker, while Wahlberg gleefully storms around as a privileged, foul-mouthed blusterer. But Hedlund has little to do but wallow in Thomas' personal misery and misplaced machismo.

The script is clever and complex, but needed a much sharper director to bring out its nuances and draw the audience in. Instead, Monahan tells his own story in a way that alienates viewers with obvious touches, awkward attempts at misdirection and random scenes that take too long to fit into the narrative. He also never generates any sense of momentum in the plot. The only energy comes from the sparky performances, most notably Isaac, who earns our interest and fires up the film all by himself.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 20.Jan.16

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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall