Ronan Dex, Khal Drogo, Conan, the future (rumored) Aquaman. Whatever role you know him in, you know that Jason Momoa has presence. The man is also hotter than the surface of the sun, but I digress. Now he’s gone and added “director” to the list with the realization of his passion-project ‘Road To Paloma’. It may have taken 3 years and countless near misses, but Jason and co. (including wife Lisa Bonet) finally managed to pull it off, complete with a media blitz. As a long time fan of the man, with a certain reputation to uphold, I went on a quest to see if it were possible to OD from too much Momoa. Spoiler alert: It’s not.
Jason and his crew hit the NYC ground running to premiere Road on July 8th, 2014. There were several radio interviews given that day, as well as an Apple Store Event and a screening of the film at the 92Y. Yes, I went to both. My rep remember? As always, Jason was the perfect blend of raunchy and adorable, a man forever willing to mingle with his fans. His innate manner served a twofold purpose because now he was using that charm to sell his movie! The main reason he wants everyone to see it? The subject matter.
Momoa has had the rapes on Native American Reservations, by non-natives, as the monkey on his back for those aforementioned 3 years. The fact that non-natives can’t yet be tried by tribal police makes justice a seeming headache (WTF?!) for the federal government. And so nothing is done. Road tells the tale of “Wolf” (played by Momoa), a Native man who reached his limit and took the law into his own hands, reducing him to a life on the run from the very government who’d abandoned his people.
While the film starts out fairly slow and has a lagging moment here and there, by the end, it seems to fit the overall tone. This isn’t a big-bang, shoot ’em up sort of movie. Every scene lays on the one before like a sheet of paper; you don’t even realize how much of the story you’ve internalized until the climax, when your heart is racing and things…expectantly fall apart. Though there are brief moments of levity, it’s the romantic and family related scenes that make the conclusion particularly gut-wrenching. Wolf may be the central character, but the main focus is how the government’s mishandling of serious crimes is further scarring an already demoralized population. As a first venture, I feel that Road has enough going for it to be promising for Momoa’s future directing career. This is despite the occasional muffled dialogue or shaky, disorienting scene; trail, error, and experience will be the best teacher here. Most importantly, the audience is made to care about the characters.
During the Q & A at the 92Y, Jason reiterated that his film is a perfect example of how one DOESN’T need Hollywood’s permission to tell the stories they want to tell. After all, the entirety of ‘Road To Paloma’ was beautifully shot on a Canon 5D on a relatively modest budget. This is a message I’m more than happy to spread because, as much as I like an H’wood blockbuster, more variety in actors and intelligent stories is desperately needed in this age of the endless remake.
As the evening progressed, Jason got further into his cups. Bless this man and his true appreciation for a good beer, right? It led to his even more impassioned plea for us to flip the bird at Hollywood, support more independent films, and inform the general public about what’s going on on our nation’s Reservations since 95% of Americans are as clueless about it as I was. It also led to him running around barefoot, waxing poetic about Lisa (which I could listen to all day), and joyfully sitting on someone’s lap e.g. “I’m just so fucking happy you’re all here!” It was our pleasure, Mr. Momoa. And thank you for opening our eyes.
‘Road To Paloma’ also stars Robert Homer Mollohan and Wes Studi and is playing in select theatres now. It’s also available on DVD/BluRay/iTunes.