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Stars: Jason Momoa, Robert Homer Mollohan, Wes Studi, Lisa Bonet, Sarah Shahi, Michael Raymond-James, Chris Browning, Timothy V Murphy and Steve Reevis.
Writers: Jason Momoa, Robert Homer Mollohand and Jonathan Hirschbein.
Director: Jason Momoa.

Rating: 3/5

Putting the reworked Conan flop behind him and eagerly expanding on his muscle-defined personality in Game of Thrones, Hawaiian he-man Jason Momoa, his visage recalling at times that of a mid-career Steven Seagal, carries just about all his broad shoulders can muster in the dusty desert melodrama, Road to Paloma.

As noble renegade/wanted man Robert Wolf, Momoa cuts a mythic figure against the desert landscape, perpetually drenched in that ‘magic hour’ glow that cinematographers like feature debutant Brian Andrew Mendoza adore. DOP is about the only role Momoa doesn’t take credit for in this low-budget but slickly-produced B-movie, which represents the actor’s feature directing debut as well as first-up producer and screenwriter credits.

Wolf is on the run having beaten a man to death who raped his mother (he’s the hero, remember.) Life as a fugitive seems to suit the bike ridin’, tough-but-tender Mojave tribe decendent, who slips in and out of bars, stripjoints, diners and family get-togethers with ease. He frequents the home of his policeman father Numay (Wes Studi) on occasion. A chance meeting with troublemaking muso Cash (co-writer Robert Homer Holloman) sets in motion an open road friendship that is a bit hard to swallow at times. Why is Wolf pairing off with this unpredictably violent loser while trying to maintain a low profile?

Having taken a few sexy moments to bed real-life spouse Lisa Bonet’s hippy chick and to act as rescuer of a rape victim, Wolf makes tracks to the home of his sister Eva (Sarah Shahi, pleasingly natural) to collect his mom’s ashes and make for the sacred mountain grounds. All this while, unhinged federal agent Williams (a seething Timothy V Murphy, clearly the movie’s true villain) and local lawman Schaeffer (Chris Browning, offering some nice character-based comedy just when the production needs it) are closing the net on our unsuspecting anti-hero.

As calmly cool and immensely likable as Momoa plays Wolf, there’s an underlying thematic current that favours vigilantism and revels in the ‘blood, booze and bikes’ alpha-male mentality. Road to Paloma is a sort of ‘reverse Easy Rider’, the film in which counter-culture dropouts biked the countryside in the face of conservatism; here, the good guy is the all-American leather-clad biker, rightfully dishing out his own form of justice in defiance of the liberal laws of the land.

Which may be over-reading what is ultimately a muscle-flexing but rather meandering road movie in search of a purpose; some mutterings about the unfair nature of the current legal system don’t really amount to much. But director Momoa progresses through the episodic plot with confident skill, although he may have had a few words with his leading man about easing back on the Rock-like charm (Wolf is murderer on the run, after all).

For a vanity project designed to broaden the industry’s perception of this TV season’s favourite hunk, Road to Paloma makes for a watchable, workmanlike, intermittently convincing and compelling western-noir potboiler.

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