Road To Paloma is a fugitive-on-the-run story, a road flick that zooms across the sun- speckled landscapes of the American West, and a slow-paced pseudo-commentary on the injustices committed against Native Americans by white men.
Road To Paloma stars Momoa, the fine-eye candy handsome mass of an actor who played Khal Drogo on HBO’s Game Of Thrones, and will reportedly become Aquaman in Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Road To Paloma was co-written by Jason Momoa, co-produced by Jason Momoa, and directed by Jason Momoa….self-serving? Nah! And it features scene after scene in which Jason Momoa mounts motorcycles, wears shirts that be inclined to lack sleeves, and intermittently stares off eloquently into the mauve sunset of the desert.
The whole film gives off the overpowering Irish spring-testosterone-musk of an egotism project. But for Momoa, Road To Paloma may be less about pure narcissism, and more about the artist formerly known as Conan The Barbarian 2.0 attempting to prove he’s capable of more serious, introspective work than Hollywood is apt to offer ripped-muscled, men like himself. I think he failed in delivering a movie that is memorable. I became bored with the movie and continued to watch because Momoa is so darn good-looking. In Road To Paloma reminded me of a modern day Easy Rider without the depth.
In Road To Paloma, Momoa is Robert Wolf, a Mojave tribe member who murdered a white man responsible for committing a brutal crime against his mother. As officials at the local and federal level attempt to track him down, Wolf cycles off on the open road, determined to spread his mother’s ashes at a scenic lake while lying low and far out of reach of the law. During his journey, Wolf unavoidably picks up some partners, including road-trip buddy Cash (Robert Homer Mollohan), an alcoholic slacker of a rock musician, and Magdalena (Lisa Bonet), a noticeable desert flower with which Wolf enjoys a brief romantic affair.
Neither of those two characters serves much purpose in Road To Paloma. All attempts to make the audience care about Cash and his thorny relationship with his ex-wife, alluded to during brief phone tête-à-têtes, eventually fail because the character is too thinly sketched to register. Bonet brings her innate New Age vibrancy to Magdalena, emerging from a gas station in the middle of nowhere wearing a floral dress and a pair of black combat boots like some Hectic Pixie Denise Huxtable. She and Momoa, who are married in real life, look spectacular together, but her presence neither improves nor progresses the narrative. There’s the sense that both parts were created to give Bonet and Mollohan, who co-wrote the script, something semi-substantive to do in a film that’s dominated by the force of the Momoa, who’s friendly enough here, in part because the narrative practically glorifies him.
The real substance of the movie is buried in the subtext behind Wolf’s crime and his mother’s death, which both point to the tribal and federal judicial systems’ failure to punish non-Native Americans who commit disgusting acts on reservation land. Momoa conveys some of the fear and futility brought on by living in that unfair environment, particularly in a wrenching scene in which Wolf and Cash must come to the aid of yet another brutalized woman. But the subject deserves deeper examination than it receives.
Momoa does capture some scenes of indisputable affection and beauty that propose he has the budding to develop a filmmaker’s eye for visual verse; take one moment in particular, in which a visit with Mojave friends and relatives leads to a picturesque evening illuminated by sparklers in the hands of young kids is very beautiful. I think too often, though, he lets his yearning to create ambiance drive him to the point of sensory overload, and he produces shots soaked in too much shadow, and imagery of a blazing sun that overwhelm the frame with lens flares. As a director, he may reach too far, too often, revealing just how much he wants to be taken seriously by Hollywood. Momoa is much better off when he tones down and actually gets out of his own way. Except in a movie that’s all fine-eye man-candy as Momoa, all the time, can be next to impossible. Road To Paloma is worth the watch but be prepare ladies for sugar overload because Momoa is fine-eye candy!
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