Jonah Hex (2010)
Reviewed by Nomad
Starring Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender, Megan Fox
Directed by Jimmy Hayward
Straight-up Westerns have met with a fair amount of success in theaters in the last ten years or so. When Hollywood tries to tweak the model a bit, things don’t turn out so well (cue Wild Wild West theme song.) Jonah Hex’s trailers may suggest the Western genre is just a backdrop for supernatural intrigue and steampunk weapons blazing away at monstrous bad guys, but the actual film isn’t nearly as interesting. Prepare for a train wreck.
Jonah Hex (Brolin) is a man haunted by the death of his wife and child at the hands of the insidious Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich). Scarred horribly by Turnbull and left for dead, Hex is saved by friendly Native Americans who yank him back, inches from the hereafter and thus changed by having seen the other side. Now Hex can communicate with the dead with a touch and roams the dusty trails as an outlaw bounty hunter with a taste for a prostitute named Lilah (Fox) and a scar across his mug you’d never forget.
The rest of this tale is either irrelevant or makes no sense. Hex believes Turnbull to be dead, which is reversed minutes later, a pointless plot fact since we all know Turnbull is the main bad guy before we even enter the theater. Hex’s “talking to the dead” gimmick stands as the only pleasing effect in the whole film, but things revealed during these moments, while pushing Hex toward the bad guy, seem forced and could have been easily replaced with some bar drunk pointing in the right direction…but what fun would that be?!
The dialogue falls out of actors' mouths with the pacing of a sub-par community theater performance, as if they were all told to sit down and watch Silverado before the shoot as their only reference. The result is agonizing with a series of peripheral characters standing around like Civil War reenactors or those odd puppets in the Hall of Presidents, pitching their lines at main characters who seem to yawn back at them.
SPEAKING of acting! While watching Jonah Hex, you’d think the film was shot in a single week with actors given two days to read the script and cue cards to cover the rest. Brolin’s mangled mouthpiece assures most of his lines are delivered through gritted teeth, rendered unintelligible. This makes his scenes with Megan Fox extra hysterical, as her delivery is extra mumbly with a sort of drawl, which isn’t to be confused with a Southern drawl. She just draws her words out and makes every word sound gnarly. It’s not sexy. John Malkovich slow walks from scene to scene with the intensity of someone performing a task they were talked into by a cousin who nagged them for a solid year. I’d swear he doesn’t change his facial expression even once and delivers his lines with a softness you reserve for ordering dessert after a pleasing meal.
This leaves Michael Fassbender as the maniacal, heavily tattooed Burke, who dances through every scene and twirls a giant knife as if he studied the art since childhood. Fassbender seems the only person behaving as if he’s in a crazy, comic adapted Western with supernatural overtones and comes off more like a Robocop nemesis than cohort to Turnbull, who is most likely sleeping somewhere behind him. Special mentions should be given to Wes Bentley and Will Arnett, who are so miscast and odd, even with the small roles given, that they may as well be in a "Saturday Night Live" skit spoofing the movie. Finally, a tip of my hat to Tom Wopat (yes, that Duke boy), who acts his ass off despite the stupidity happening around him and succeeds in proving he deserves more movie roles.
Eighty minutes feel like two hours as this dull fantasy rolls along with lame, unlikely action, horrible writing, and zero atmosphere. If you consider a red tinted “dream sequence” that replays throughout the film as cutting edge cinematography, then I suggest you partake in any one of a number of Syfy’s “original” movies and save some cash. When I saw the names Neveldine and Taylor come up in the credits as screenwriters, I nearly yelled "LIAR!!" This complete mess of a film could not be the work of the guys who brought us the Crank films and Gamer. Jonah Hex lacks the quirkiness and risk taking that is the backbone of those films. Jonah Hex has to be a hack job, and after cutting the meat to ribbons in an attempt to form a coherent storyline, we are left with 80 minutes of sweaty boredom, laughable action gimmicks, and an “ultimate weapon” that will remind the more geeky among us of the dragon balls from Dragon Ball Z. They, too, make no sense.
I went into Jonah Hex with very low expectations, my Spidey senses telling me this may hurt a bit. I left rubbing my eyes, shaking myself awake for the ride home, and muttering curses to myself. At the very least, I’d expected a classic revenge tale with heavy atmosphere and supernatural overtones. What I got was a completely wasted opportunity to do something new while crossing genres, utilizing at least two excellent actors to pull it off … and a headache. Jonah Hex is a textbook case of a movie falling apart at the zero hour, like a science project scotch taped together the night before that oozes all over the back seat of Dad’s car on the way to class the next day. Save yourself the agony, and skip this movie altogether.
1 out of 5
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