Movie review of “Mojave”: A wannabe ’40s-style noir doesn’t fulfill its promise — though there’s lots of overwrought dialogue and smoking. Rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.

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Everything in William Monahan’s overwrought crime thriller “Mojave” feels weirdly self-conscious — like a bad-remake version of itself, or like a better movie is hiding inside it and got lost somewhere in the screenplay drafts. (Or as if “Mojave” the movie was rewritten and performed as an overly dramatic play.) This is the sort of film in which the characters don’t just smoke — they form elaborate relationships with cigarettes, holding them with precisely artful hand motions and cradling them lovingly and dangling them from lips like some strange, gravity-defying appendage. That might work in a ’40s noir — which, on some level, this film wants to be — but here it’s mostly just silly.

All this is in service to a story that might have worked better as a novel. Thomas (Garrett Hedlund), a handsome, brooding LA artist type, heads into the desert to ponder the human condition, as one does. There he finds Jack (Oscar Isaac), an equally handsome drifter who carries a large gun and talks about literature; he is, we gradually infer, a sort of doppelgänger for Thomas. Jack soon finds his way back to town, infiltrating Thomas’ life. Much — too much — dialogue is uttered, about the duality of man and death’s raven wing and the like; not much, other than all that smoking, actually happens.

In the cast, only Isaac makes a vivid impression, in a swaggery, relaxed turn that seems to imply that he’s in on the joke, or at least having a good time. Other than his performance, “Mojave” just wanders in its verbal circles — lost, you might say, in its own desert.

Movie Review ★½  

‘Mojave,’ with Garrett Hedlund, Oscar Isaac, Louise Bourgoin, Walton Goggins, Mark Wahlberg. Written and directed by William Monahan. 93 minutes. Rated R for language and some violence. Southcenter 16.