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There’s a distinct Easy Rider vibe to Road to Paloma, actor Jason Momoa’s (Conan the Barbarian, Game of Thrones) directorial debut. Starring as Robert Wolf, a Native American on the run after murdering the man who raped and murdered his mother, the strapping long-haired actor, who also co-scripted, has crafted an elegiac road movie stronger on style than substance.
Riding around the scenic environs of the American West on his motorcycle while being pursued by a pair of federal agents, the taciturn Wolf soon hooks up with Cash (co-scripter Robert Homer Mollohan), a drifter with a knack for getting into trouble. During their travels they engage in a series of picaresque adventures, including a stop at a strip club, engaging in a bare-knuckle brawl to raise some money, and in Wolf’s case bedding a beautiful woman (Momoa’s real-life spouse, Lisa Bonet) whose car he’s repaired.
Wolf also makes contact with his sister (Sarah Shahi) and his Indian reservation cop father (Wes Studi), although the latter is unable to help him out of his predicament.
Despite its melodramatic premise, the film is decidedly low-key in its style, with Wolf seeming less like a man desperately trying to evade capture than a guy who’s simply out for a joyride. While he has an undeniably charismatic physical presence, the underplaying Momoa is less effective in conveying his character’s existential angst.
Reminiscent of 1969’s Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here minus the suspense, the film rambles along from one episode to another without any of them making a strong impression. Although the tyro director displays a flair for atmospheric visuals, aided largely by Brian Mendoza’s gorgeous cinematography which makes particularly fine use of twilight, the mechanics of effective storytelling seem beyond him.
Straining mightily for a mythic quality and reaching a predictably melancholic, violent conclusion, Road to Paloma mainly comes across as a vanity project star vehicle. To more fully appreciate Momoa’s talents, one would be better advised to check out his fine work on the current Sundance series The Red Road.
Production companies: Pride of Gypsies, Boss Media
Cast: Jason Momoa, Robert Homer Mollohan, Wes Studi, Lisa Bonet, Sarah Shahi, Michael Raymond-James, Chris Browning, Timothy V. Murphy, Steve Reevis
Director: Jason Momoa
Screenwriters: Jason Momoa, Robert Homer Mollohan, Jonathan Hirschbein
Producers: Jason Momoa, Brian Mendoza
Executive producers: Michael J. Luisi, Jamey Pryde, Sarah Shahi
Director of photography: Brian Mendoza
Editor: Jennifer Tiexiera
Composers: Ohad Benchetrit, Justin Small
Rated R, 91 minutes
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