Jonah Hex (Blu-ray / DVD)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Aidan Quinn, Will Arnett, Wes Bentley
Directed by Jimmy Hayward
Distributed by Warner Home Video
Let's make a Western about a facially disfigured bounty hunter motivated entirely by rage-fueled vengeance against the villain that burned his wife and son alive right in front of him and left his face half melted, embue him the otherworldly ability to resurrect corpses for interrogation, a beautiful prostitute love interest, and pit him against a murderous army of racist domestic terrorists plotting to assassinate the President and overthrow the United States government via use of a steampunk super weapon, but make sure to keep it all a tame PG-13 and go out of your way to camp it up here and there Wild Wild West style so that it can still be sold to family audiences. Who could have ever predicted the first ever feature film version of DC Comics' Jonah Hex would be one of the biggest flops of the summer of 2010?
A pity, a true Jonah Hex movie would have had all the makings of a hardboiled Western with a comic book touch. Somewhere along the way everything got totally mucked up and the finished film rendered a semi-lucid train wreck that plays like a failed Fox Network TV movie pilot from the mid-Nineties that would have starred David Hasselhoff. The future Razzie Award winning Jonah Hex will just have to settle for being a boneheaded cavalcade of bad wigs and fake mustaches that periodically amused me despite boasting a storyline more mangled than its hero's face. I'm sure the scant 73-minute running time also helped this one go down easier that it should have.
Jonah Hex is a post-Civil War bounty hunter whose hideously scarred face is not really a sore subject with him, not something others constantly point out to him, and does not in any way inhibit his ability to score with the hottest female in the movie. He acquired his hideously scarred face after being branded by evil Confederate General Quentin Turnbull, furious at Hex for killing his son, Jeb, Hex's former best friend, for reasons we will never understand in the slightest, thus making everyone's motivations for revenge a moot point.
The producers must have been of the belief that you cannot make a movie based on a comic book vigilante unless they possess superpowers or an array of nifty gadgets and weapons, and so to hedge their bets they went and gave Jonah Hex both. Since I've read maybe two Jonah Hex comics in my entire life for all I know he really was friends with a freed slave serving as "Q" to his James Bond supplying him with crossbows that fire sticks of dynamite and side-mounted Gatling guns for soon-to-be deaf horses. I am fairly certain from the two issues I read that Jonah Hex did not have any superpowers and he certainly wasn't a Wild West version of The Crow.
An opening animated sequence somewhat explains how the ritual the Crow Indians used to bring Hex to life after being left for dead by General Turnbull bestowed him with the ability to bring the dead back to life with a single touch just long enough for him to ask them redundant questions and inflict extra skin rotting/burning pain on them if they don’t give him the answers he’s looking for. Imagine "Pushing Daisies" starring Jack Bauer and you'll get the idea. The dead we are told can keep tabs on all the important still living people they once knew; who better to tell you the location of the person you're seeking out than one of their deceased cronies? To dumb it down further, in the world of Jonah Hex, zombies are the GPS units of the spirit world.
The usage of this power in one particular scene exemplifies what a comedy of errors this movie ended up as. Hex resurrects Turnbull's dead son Jeb (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), his former best friend, the best friend he killed, which in turn prompted General Turnbull to kill his family and scar his face, the best friend killed by Hex after Jeb tried to kill Hex for reasons never explained in the slightest. A ton of exposition occurs and not a single word of it contains any context those of us watching can understand because we still don’t know what actually went down between the two of them since this part of the plot got lost in the shuffle when the movie underwent massive reshoots. The writers, director, editor, and even the actors were apparently so discombobulated that when this scene was over it somehow hadn't dawned on any of them that Hex had never bothered to ask Jeb for the location of his villainous dad - the only reason he resurrected the guy in the first place!
General Quentin Turnbull, still sore over the Confederacy losing the Civil War, faked his death in a hotel fire for no discernable reason and now, leading a band of evil ex-Confederates (including Michael Fassbender as an Irishman with a Mike Tyson face tattoo - huh?), have begun attacking US trains and military installations in order to gather the components to complete Eli Whitney's "Nation Killer" super cannon that fires never explained glowing cannonballs of mass destruction, which they intend to use to blow up Washington D.C. amid President Ulysses S. Grant's Fourth of July Centennial address.
Lilah is a hooker with a heart of gold constantly bathed in such a golden hue I feared some gold prospector frequenting her bordello might get confused and attempt to literally mine her snatch. She repeatedly makes it clear to her customers that she is no man's property, except that is when it comes to this hideously scarred bounty hunter whom she is madly in love with for reasons never made clear, in which case she wants nothing more than to run off with him to start a new life together elsewhere as his subservient wench.
Megan Fox's only contributions to the plot of Jonah Hex are as follows: look fetching in a corset, never hesitate to kiss a man with half a face that looks like a wad of chewing gum you’d peel off the bottom of your shoe, and get taken hostage just long enough during the climax for Hex to lay down his guns so that he doesn't kill General Turnbull then and there making the 73-minute movie only 55-minutes long.
A shame this wasn't a better Jonah Hex movie because Josh Brolin showed the potential to be a total badass in the role. John Malkovich, on the other hand, doesn't even try to mask his complete disdain for the film he's appearing in. Malkovich goes the extra mile to make General Turnbull the most lifeless screen villain since Ben Kingsley in BloodRayne. Was it even Malkovich emoting on screen or did Steven Seagal find the Being John Malkovich hole and took over his body during the shooting of Jonah Hex?
The only DVD extras included are deleted scenes. Ah, yeah, that'll help flesh out the nonsense. Because surely these deleted scenes will logically explain why we find ourselves watching Jonah Hex and General Turnbull engaging in fisticuffs to the death within a red clay netherworld dirt pit intercut with their real world fisticuffs to the death taking place within the bowels of an Ironclad battleship. Because surely these deleted scenes will now make it abundantly clearly what those glowing cannonballs are composed of. Because surely these deleted scenes will fully explain why there's an acid-spitting snakeman competing in MMA tournaments in Restoration era South Carolina. Surely all of Jonah Hex's myriad of lingering questions will be answered by these few missing scenes? I doubt a two-and-a-half hour director's cut could put this Humpty Dumpty movie back together again.
As for the Blu-ray besides looking and sounding better you'll find an eleven minute featurette that traces the history of the Jonah Hex character from comics to film, and a picture-in-picture mode which allows you to watch various behind-the-scenes bits while watching the movie.
As the dust settles and Jonah Hex is left to fester as just another rotting carcass in the ever growing pile of botched Hollywood comic book motion picture adaptations, where does the blame rest? A Warner Brothers movie exec quoted on Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood knows where things went wrong:
"You don't take a handsome actor and disfigure him."
Yeah, that was the main reason why this movie bombed. If only they hadn't uglied up Josh Brolin Jonah Hex would have been a box office smash. Once again, Hollywood gets a clue and figures out the bigger picture. Lesson learned. Next!
2 out of 5
2 out of 5
Discuss Jonah Hex in the comments section below!