Film Review: Road to PalomaA one-note on-the-lam saga that’s primarily notable for its simplistic celebration of the outlaw life through endless shots of writer/director/star Jason Momoa in sunset silhouette.
Being on the run from the law is a fun, exciting and surprisingly stress-free experience in Road to Paloma, a one-note fantasy in which cops are ruthless cretins and criminals are noble protectors of women. Written and directed by star Jason Momoa (“Game of Thrones,” Conan the Barbarian), this empty-headed saga charts the road-tripping odyssey of Wolf (Momoa), a Native American who finds himself in hot water with the feds after donning war paint and brutally slaughtering the man responsible for the rape and murder of his mother. Hopping on his motorcycle and driving around the American West desert, Wolf strikes an imposing biker pose, and the film agrees, spending an inordinate amount of time on photogenic montages of Wolf riding about the plains like a wannabe Harley Davidson tough guy. Absolutely infatuated with the sight of his locks blowing in the wind as he drives down empty highways at sunset, Momoa, as a director, often turns the film into a laughable celebration of his own manly mane.
Focusing on such physical attributes makes a certain amount of sense, since Road to Paloma makes clear that, as an actor, Momoa is a one-dimensional brooder who seems uncomfortable speaking more than a few lines at a time. His Wolf is defined by his honesty, good humor, and fierce protectiveness of abused females, all of which puts him on the right side of “justice” and contrasts him with his chief pursuer, a bald-headed federal agent named Williams (Timothy V. Murphy) whose calm exterior masks volatile cruelty.
Wolf soon joins up with a ne’er-do-well rock singer named Cash (Robert Homer Mollohan) who has a habit of skipping out on bills and responsibilities, as well as boasts a predilection for head-butting anyone who rubs him the wrong way. Their partnership reconfirms the story’s fundamental belief that there’s nothing more romantic than being a badass who lives life on his own terms—which in this case turns out to involve hanging out at strip clubs, winning money at underground fight clubs, and bedding random roadside beauties (Lisa Bonet!) after fixing their cars.
Road to Paloma sets every other scene at dusk or in the dark, with moonlight and campfires providing just enough light to cast Momoa and Mollohan in silhouettes that enhance their wannabe-mythic macho stature. Unfortunately, by refusing to wrestle with (much less critique) Wolf’s vigilante actions, the film renders itself simply an uncomplicated and monotonous celebration of the outlaw life. Wolf and Cash get beaten up, laugh while hanging out in the vast middle of nowhere, and save a faceless, innocent woman from being raped, as well as survive other incidents that, scored to generic rock tunes, are draped in the director’s stock brand of desperado cool. The action eventually culminates in an act of violence that makes absolutely no sense from a rational point of view, though it does serve as a final Christ-like punctuation mark for a film that operates as little more than a vanity project for its writer/director/headliner.
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