Film Review

Jason Momoa’s Road To Paloma

I was always kind of aware of Road To Paloma as ‘that biker flick passion project that Jason Momoa directed and stared in but didn’t really make a big splash’ so I never really got around to it until now. Well I think that there’s a reason it didn’t make a big splash, as it’s far more of a meditative, almost spiritual picture than any sort of action thriller type thing, an esoteric, atmospheric portrait of one Native American man meandering the southwest on the run from both the law and his past. But it’s a fantastic film, one that shows Momoa as a true visual poet in command of every frame, giving his story a loose, elegiac aura that’s not always so easy to capture authentically. He plays Robert Wolf, an indigenous wanderer who has a nasty, predatory federal agent (Timothy V. Murphy) on his tail at the behest of a gruff FBI section chief (the briefest of cameos from Lance Henriksen), guided by a conflicted sheriff (Chris Browning). That sounds like the setup for something fast paced and thrilling, but such is thankfully not really the case. There are some scenes of action and pursuit but most of the film is Wolf and his rambunctious buddy Cash (Robert Homer Mollohan) rambling from place to place on their bikes and carving out a path through the gorgeous, rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains and desolate plains below. They visit Robert’s friends and family, participate in a junkyard fight club for cash, hang out, drink, ponder existence and the unjust system that led to their predicament and really just… live. Many people have said this film is ‘dull’ and ‘nothing happens’ but I guess those people need constant gun battles and car chases pumped into them from an IV. If they slowed down to think a bit they’d see this film is anything but dull or nothing, it’s a heartbreaking, honest look at one man running from injustice after avenging the death of a loved one, and naturally being part of an indigenous tribe, he and his family experience the full weight of the racism, hate and evil that has bred in the area since time immemorial. Wolf feels less like martyr here and more like myth, a totem of the swiftly shrinking freedom human beings have in any given era or area, and a deliberate force of nature who lives moment to moment in utter clarity, possessive of an elemental restlessness that sees him never tarry in one space for long. He meets others including his tribal police chief father (the great Wes Studi), his sister (Sarah Shani) who has married an old friend of his (Michael Raymond-James), briefly entering and re-entering their lives before hitting the road again. He also meets a mysterious stranded girl called Magdalena, played by his real life wife Lisa Bonet. The two have a brief romantic encounter here that’s sweet, haunting, supported by their genuine love and chemistry and adds a heartfelt dynamic to Wolf’s story, even just for a few quick scenes. The story may be lilting and free form, simply a brief, tragic and melancholy glimpse into the life of a man who has spent most of it on the road, and is now nearing the end of it. But in that lyrical, shifting-sand narrative there’s a profundity and aching soul, a need to tell the story of great injustice and corruption, however far you need to read, and feel, between the lines. Great film.

-Nate Hill

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