Road to Paloma Review

Posted: July 4, 2014 in Action, Drama, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

road-to-paloma01Road to Paloma contains two shots of exquisite beauty. The framing and composition of these moments that last no more than a few seconds are perfect. One comes at the beginning of the film and shows the protagonist Robert Wolf (Jason Momoa) sitting under a tree, taking a break from repairing a barbed wire fence. The second occurs midway through and is simply an establishing shot of a gas station/cafe at night, but the contrast of the fluorescent lights against the desert darkness is as striking as an Edward Hopper painting. Those two shots, created by Momoa, who also directed the movie and had a hand in the screenplay, and the cinematographer, Brian Mendoza, are the best parts of Road to Paloma.

Yes, there are other occasions in the film where the natural setting is breathtaking or the lighting at twilight or dawn is perfectly captured, but they do not resonate as long or as deeply as those two other shots.

Unfortunately, every single moment of scenic beauty is ruined by an intrusive story that cannot sustain interest over the course of the 90-minute runtime. Seldom will you see a movie in which the interaction between any two characters is as implausible as the relationships shown in Road to Paloma. Nothing matches. Nothing meshes. Run into a guy into an alley, and he becomes your best friend. Help a pretty girl with her broken-down car, and of course, you’ll sleep with her right away.

Wolf is a Native American who killed the man who raped and murdered his mother. Now, he is being pursued by the FBI. Wolf was driven to this by the failure of the criminal justice system, which does not treat crimes against Native Americans as seriously as those committed against whites. He teams up with Cash (Robert Mollohan), the guy he knows from the alley, and they ride motorcycles and fight crime across California (they are actually flagged down by a young boy to stop a rape) as they seek the mystical lake where Wolf will spread the ashes of his late mother.

It is almost impossible to judge the acting in Road to Paloma because every performer is seemingly in a different movie. No pairing illustrates this better than the FBI agent (Timothy V. Murphy) and the local law enforcement officer (Chris Browning) who are tracking Wolf. Murphy comes off like he’s trying to channel Terence Stamp in The Limey, while Browning appears to have wandered off the set of Raising Arizona. Lisa Bonet shows up with an ailing automobile and an old Airstream trailer, looking like she wants to recapture a little of the Angel Heart magic, but all she winds up with is some awkward dialogue in a poorly lit orange grove at night.

The situation of the Native American is treated with the appropriate respect and dignity. The Mojave language is used at times with English subtitles, and members of the Fort Mojave tribe participated in the filming. Certain rituals are also shown without explanation. Director/writer/actor Momoa would have been better served in his feature film debut behind the camera in focusing on the tribe. A documentary film of these people would have been a better tribute and a better movie than this silly tale.

One and a half stars.

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