Road to Paloma Review
First movies from actors turned directors have an interesting and varied history. Whether they are instant masterpieces (Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter), very promising debuts that were later perfected (Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty For Me) or complete failures (Crispin Glover’s aptly named What Is It?), at least they give a fascinating insight into an actor’s inner personality.
Road to Paloma is no exception to the rule. It is the first feature length movie written, produced and directed by Jason Momoa (Ronon Dex in Stargate: Atlantis, Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones, Conan in the Conan the Barbarian reboot, and Aquaman in the most anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie and the less anticipated Aquaman solo movie) following his interesting-but-flawed short film, Brown Bag Diaries: Ridin' the Blinds in B Minor (2010).
Momoa stars as Wolf, a Native American, who is being pursued by an FBI agent (Timothy V. Murphy), after having avenged his mother’s rape and murder. Wolf is on a quest a quest to recover his mother’s ashes to disperse them according to a tribal ritual. On his journey, he will get reacquainted with old friend and make new ones.
If this sounds like a familiar story this is because it is the typical road-movie during which we witness both the character’s journey on the road and his internal one. It features all the usual elements which you can imagine attracted Momoa the actor (an antihero who did a condemnable action which can still be regarded as justifiable, redemption, honour, etc.) and Momoa the writer/director (wide open space, vintage bikes, etc.). He uses several clichés inherent to the road-movie genre (the main characters are extensively filmed riding their motorbikes on the road, each individual they meet makes them progress in their internal journey, etc.) but avoid others (there is a fight scene, in line with the WWE distribution credit, however Momoa does not participate).
One of the major strengths of the movie is its amazing scenery which takes us from deserts to cold mountains and forests. Shot in and around California, were the Mojave tribes originate, several shots will most likely get imprinted in viewers’ mind long after the ending. It is a movie that you feel more than follow (the story could not be more basic).
There are also compelling ideas which arouse curiosity for Momoa’s next directorial efforts (IMDB lists Enemy in the Valley, the true story of the legendary nineteenth century Hawaiian hero, Ko’olau the outlaw, as his next movie as a director); for instance the way Wolf meets Cash in a very straight and casual manner and the development of their unlikely friendship which, even if it lacks the required emotional attachment to the characters, shows a talent to make it not forced and believable. Furthermore, what happened to Wolf’s mother, and his subsequent actions, are left totally unseen and our feelings rely exclusively on accounts made during discussions between Wolf and his father (played by the ever wise-looking Wes Studi) and between Wolf and Cash. Momoa doesn’t try to justify his character’s actions by using disturbing flashbacks and in doing so he leaves it entirely to the viewer to decide how they perceive Wolf’s actions and his quest for redemption.
Finally, the movie also benefits from a great rock/country/blues soundtrack which adheres perfectly to the different moods of the movie.
With regards to the disc that Momoa’s first feature is offered in the UK, it is less than classic. The movie is distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment who have not judged necessary to include any bonus on the disc (not even the deleted scene included in the US disc release or even a trailer!). We get the bare minimum with regard to the technical specifications of the disc as well: chapters’ selection and a choice of stereo 2.0 or Optional 5.1 for the sound. The image ensures the minimum but with such amazing sceneries a sharper transfer would have been most welcomed.