Road to Paloma has a few successes and it’s worth noting these. Firslty, the cinematography is top rate. Brian Andrew Mendoza paints a stunning picture, using the barren backdrop of the US west coast to wonderful effect. Were this a movie with no script, the same soundtrack, and the striking screen presence of Jason Mamoa, it would be a type of soothing machismo poetry. Women, at least, would melt into their chairs in appreciation of the beauty of the thing. Unfortunately, there is a script and plot, and both are really quite bad… interjecting all that potential beauty.
The plot is a simple one. Wolf, played by Mamoa, is on the run after killing a man who raped and murdered his mum. He has a second aim, to scatter his mum’s ashes at the location of her birth. Wolf, however, seems in no real rush to do this. Neither does the FBI agent who is on his tail seem to be really too bothered to catch him (much that he might use language to suggest that he is).
We learn of Wolf’s crime early on in the film when he visits his dad at their family home. His dad is making ornaments and knifes from natural materials. They sit in front of a burning stove while their pieces of art set, and then enjoy a smoke of some sort of herbal on a mountain top. Later on in the film, which presumably is meant to be an interesting plot twist, Wolf’s father appears in a police uniform. This scene, it seems, is there to induce some form of excitement. It’s forced and doesn’t seem genuine.
There are other faults of character. Wolf’s co-rider, Cash, is a care-free, drunken and has recently left his wife with a mass of bills and a house to sell. His feelings for his wife aren’t the most flattering. At one stage Wolf asks Cash the name of his Yamaha motorbike. Cash replies that he named it after his wife. When Wolf asks why, Cash responds it’s because “the bitch won’t die”. In fact, in spite of the misogyny, this is one of the more original lines of the movie. Cash also shows his licentious nature in a visit to a strip club. Then, in another off-the-cuff plot development, Cash rushes with Wolf to try and help a women who is being raped in the outback. His concern seems a little forced.
At this stage, some viewers would be forgiven to wish that Road to Paloma might lapse into a good old WWE Royal Rumble. Instead the end result is a collage of disparate events: a bi-polar exploration of themes such as revenge, family, and indigenous community relations.