Jonah Hex is one of an initial wave of comic book properties that will be rushed out now that actual superhero films are more or less completely booked. Sometimes, this can work, as in the case of Sin City or 300, but sometimes, it does not, as in the case of well, Jonah Hex.
Could this have been a great film? I’m not sure, as the public’s attitude toward sci-fi westerns has been permanently damaged over a decade ago by Will Smith’s Wild Wild West, but I have to say, the one good thing that’s come out of Jonah Hex is that I now at least enjoy that film a lot more.
At least that movie had the humor and charm of Smith, and approached its absurdity with a wink and a smile (a legless villain piloting a giant robo-spider of doom?). Jonah Hex on the other hand is completely straight-faced, and what few one liners it does throw out sink like a torpedoed steamboat.
Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) is a very sad, very angry dude, who is sad and angry because his family was burned alive in front of him, and in the process he now looks like a rejected concept sketch of Two-Face. He was a Confederate officer who turned against his commander (John Malkovich) for his brutal practices, killing his son in the process. Well vengeance was swift and fiery, and with the man responsible presumed dead shortly after, Hex has since roamed the land as a bounty hunter, killing bad guys who deserve it for cash.
Hey man, you got lucky, the brand could have been shaped like a dick.
But when the US Government tells him that his arch nemesis Turnbull has faked his own death, and is currently plotting an attack against the US with the 19th century equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction, Hex doesn’t need to hear two words more, and immediately turns into a whirlwind of destruction, carving a path to Turnbull.
There are a number of elements that make this film pretty unbearable, not the least of which is Hex himself. He tried to combat his initial facial scar (a brand from Turnbull) by burning it off completely with the hot blade of an axe. This results in a strange skin column bridging his upper and lower lip. Yes, it’s true to the comics, but when put into practice, doesn’t exactly make for a very relatable lead, especially since Josh Brolin’s acting abilities are quite hindered by the fact that he can’t open his mouth more than a quarter of the way.
Thankfully, Hex has found the hottest prostitute in the tri-state area (Megan Fox) who has some sort of strange fetish for facial deformities, presumably because she enjoys awkward makeout session with someone who barely has lips. She’s in love with Hex for some reason or another, probably because he’s the only one of her clients who doesn’t try to strangle her or purchase her like cattle. She aides Hex in his quest for vengeance, but turns out to be not a whole lot more useful than his horse or dog.
“Mmm, yeah, snarl for me baby!”
Turnbull is a rather mindless villain, who wants to destroy the US because…we’ll I’m not sure really, he’s a Confederate? Hex is an (ex) Confederate too, but the film goes out of its way to give him a black friend who casually informs us, “Jonah, you’re not a racist, you didn’t believe in slavery, you fought for the South because you didn’t like the government telling you what to do.” Yes, well, the government was telling the South not to have slaves, hence the problem, but uhhh, let’s move on.
The unscrupulous Turnbull has gotten his hands on a giant cannon powered by what appears to be a glowing Dragonball, that has the capability to level cities. In lieu of scientific principles, he explains that this device was invented by either Eli Whitney or George Washington Carver, I can’t recall which, though either option is equally ridiculous.
Oh, did I forget to mention there’s magic? Forget Doomsday Machines, Jonah Hex is full of just the straight up supernatural, a fact that’s usually brought up when Hex is on the verge of death. Fortunately, not once, but twice in the film, Native Americans bring him back to life with sorcery, and he exhibits the ability to talk to dead people by touching them. This strange power is accompanied by the absurd revelation that every dead person knows the whereabouts of anyone they knew when they were alive, thus making it one of the lamest plot devices I’ve ever seen, as Hex grabs various deceased baddies in order to figure out where Turbull is hiding.
“Was this invented yet? I don’t care! Bwaaa! Burnnn!”
Oh also, if you grab dead people for too long, the sun burns them up (the rate of this depends on how long they’ve been dead) and this can be cured by sprinkling dirt on their heads. Very scientific for something that’s absolutely goddamn retarded.
On top of all the plot absurdity, the film is just horribly shot and put together. It opens with a bizarre animated scene recapping Hex’s recent history that could be put to shame by a number of video game cutscenes. Throughout the film, the action is blurry, choppy, and the shots never seem to be framed quite right way. And finally, with a PG-13 rating meant to capture Megan Fox’s drooling fanbase, anything resembling a cool action scene is muzzled into something completely bloodless and forgettable.
This is not a good movie, not by any stretch of the imagination. It’s hard to point fingers at just one person responsible, as it just seems to be a perfect storm of badness in almost every way. Not every book with words and pictures needs to be ripped from its pages and turned into a film. Here’s to hoping no one grabs Jonah Hex’s carcass after this, and brings this film back to life for a sequel.
1 out of 5 stars
The movie’s best part was when it reminded me of Arrested Development for two seconds.