Going Nomad

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Going Nomad

The so-called "Asphalt Nomads," a group of short-wired drifters who cruise their oversized vehicles through the emptied New York City streets at night, are meant to represent the determinedly offbeat philosophy of first-time director Art Jones' Going Nomad. But the idea of these restless individuals determined to escape the big-city traffic is a much more exacting metaphor for the film itself, which takes a drastic swerve from the mainstream by way of non-stop, insufferable indie quirkiness. As "El Cid" Rivera, a 33-year-old minimum wager obsessed with Charlton Heston epics, Hal Hartley regular Damian Young (Simple Men, Amateur) does his best to flatten Jones' flowery narration into a cool deadpan. But his unassuming turn—along with some lovely formal compositions and bits of absurdism, also imported from Hartley—is in service of a vague quest that isn't even remotely compelling. Young and his listless circle of drinking buddies have never left their congested Manhattan confines, and his nocturnal drives become a way of staking out independence and solitude. To pad out this slim conceit, Jones adds a perfunctory romance, purple street poetry by Young's fellow nomads (including Victor Argo, whose two-minute role merits second billing), and other pieces of tacked-on whimsy. But for all its constant chatter, whether in droning voiceover or roundtable banter, Going Nomad fails to express a single discernible idea, calling for a city-wide "movement" to embrace the goofiest possible idiosyncrasies.