What do you call a psychological thriller that’s not all that thrilling? ‘Mojave’ follows broody star-turned-filmmaker Thomas (Garrett Hedlund) as he heads into the titular desert to booze, break down and be macho (crashing the studio jeep? How manly!). In the desert he faces off with possible serial killer Jack (Oscar Isaac), who smirks like a pick-up artist and rolls off quips about the devil before following Thomas back to his mansion in the Hollywood hills. But is he real, or just a figment of Thomas’s imagination?
‘Mojave’ ought to have everything going for it. It’s written and directed by William Monahan, who won an Oscar for scripting Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Departed’. The two leads are perfectly cast: Hedlund is a natural as the self-absorbed former teen idol and Isaac is an unsettling presence (I would pay just to watch these two lock eyes for an hour). The contrast between the cinematic beauty of the desert with the clinical urban sprawl of LA works beautifully. But somewhere between the film’s obese dialogue – ‘I’m into motiveless malignity, I’m a Shakespeare man’ – and Mark Wahlberg’s turn as a playboy film producer, everything falls flat. It might have made a good episode of ‘Entourage’, but as a full-length feature it misses the mark.