Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Mojave Movie Poster Image
Little actually happens in talky, violent thriller.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 93 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Nothing learned here; the story could be seen as someone triumphing over their own dark side, but the character in question more or less turns to the dark side himself to accomplish this.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Wholly unlikeable, unredeemable characters. One character is supposedly rich and famous, though the movie never says what he does, and he acts spoiled, obnoxious, entitled, and depressed throughout.


Fighting, shooting; characters die. A minor character shot and killed, with a blood stain. Knife fight. Beating with a club. Minor car wreck.


Brief glimpse of naked male bottom. A character climbs out of bed, where he has been sleeping with someone. A man lets himself be picked up by someone. Reference to a "blow job."


Several uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "a--hole," "blow job," "whore."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Regular cigarette smoking. Character drinks what appears to be two bottles of vodka and several cans of beer in the desert (with the possibility that he's trying to commit suicide). Other characters drink casually/socially. Reference to "doing blow." Reference to mescaline.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mojave is a thriller about two men trying to kill each other. The screenplay is full of "deep thoughts," but in the end, there's no real takeaway from this movie: The characters are deeply unlikable, barely anything happens, and no one learns anything. Things get violent; characters are shot and killed, with blood stains shown, and there's fighting with hands, blunt instruments, and knives. A man's naked bottom is shown briefly, and there are a couple of brief, minor sexual situations. Language is strong, with several uses of "f--k" and "s--t" (in various permutations). Characters drink and smoke cigarettes a lot, and it's implied that one character intends to commit suicide via substance; he purchases and drinks two full bottles of vodka. It's possible that that stars Oscar Isaac, Mark Wahlberg, and Garrett Hedlund could draw teens to the movie, but only mature viewers should tune in.

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What's the story?

Tom (Garrett Hedlund) -- a famous, successful Hollywood creative type -- heads into the Mojave Desert with a couple bottles of booze, perhaps thinking of committing suicide. But before long, he meets another wanderer, Jack (Oscar Isaac). They talk, but Tom soon intuits that Jack isn't to be trusted. Then they fight, at which point Tom gets hold of Jack's rifle and departs. The next day, while hiding in a cave, Tom accidentally shoots a police officer, and Jack witnesses the accident. Back in civilization, Tom tries to hide the evidence, but Jack shows up, threatening to expose him. The men seem evenly matched, so there's only one thing left to do: go back into the Mojave for a showdown.

Is it any good?

This bizarre, quasi-existential neo-Western thriller is full of brainy chit-chat but doesn't actually offer any real ideas. The characters are so thin that the outcome of their conflict doesn't really matter. There's no one to root for. The second film directed by Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed), MOJAVE gets off to a bad start by introducing Tom, who's famous -- though we have no idea what he actually does (he may be an actor or an artist). He's wealthy, petulant, and deeply unlikable.

Isaac fares slightly better as the sociopath Jack, reveling in both the character's bad behavior and his crazy costume (long hair and bad teeth). Walton Goggins and Mark Wahlberg turn up, for no particular reason, in small roles as smarmy, sleazy Hollywood types. References to Shakespeare, Melville, Fitzgerald, and other greats are supposed to inspire deep thoughts but are only distracting. At least the movie includes a choice clip from Erich von Stroheim's Greed (1924).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Mojave's violence. How much is shown, and how much is implied? How did it make you feel? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Why is the main character so unhappy if he's rich and famous? Is he any happier at the end of the story? What has he learned?

  • How is drinking depicted in the movie? When Tom goes to the desert to drink, what's implied?

  • What does the Mojave desert symbolize in the movie? What does Hollywood symbolize?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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