"Jonah Hex." "Joooonah Hex." "Jonah." "Hex." Jonah Heeeeex."
The name was said so many times and so many different ways it is hard to say just how it is supposed to be pronounced. However, that is the least of this movie's problems. It does not have any direction, character, or personality. It has a plot filled with character motivations that either do not make sense or seem out of place. It is littered with miscast actors and other out of place elements like some mysterious (unexplained, mind you), exploding orbs. Yes, you read that right.
Jonah Hex is the sort of movie that sounds good on paper. I am assuming the comic upon which it is based is pretty good, although I cannot definitively say, not having read it. It is a sound concept that seems to have been partially adapted into the excellent yet short lived series Pushing Daisies where the bit it used was executed flawlessly. Add to that a cast that includes the likes of Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Aidan Quinn, Michael Fassbender, and Michael Shannon and it's starting to look like something pretty solid. Of course, the presence of Megan Fox (I know, I know, a lot of people like her, I'm just not one of them) and Will Arnett (who I think is fantastic, just not here) make me scratch my head. Well, Fox's presence I can see, but with Arnett I kept waiting for the punch line that never came.
The trailer, on the other hand, indicates a movie that could be some B-grade fun. An action film with a supernatural edge set in the post-Civil War era West with plenty of bullets, explosives, and quippy one-liners seems perfect for a fun afternoon at the theater. The movie is pretty much a parody of itself — it loses itself amidst the explosions, bullets, quips, and loud rock music score. It gets close to the "so bad it's good" line but does not quite have the juice to go all the way over the edge.
The short feature runs roughly 80 minutes, including credits. That is barely enough time for it to get a head of steam leading up to the climax. I get the feeling there is a considerably longer, but not necessarily better, movie on the cutting room floor. The choppy flow feels like the work of a suit and not the work of an editor. Somebody must have seen something in the film and decided to cut it up in the hopes of making something salvageable. You know, sometimes you get to far along in a project and it becomes too big too fail even when disastrous issues arise during production.
The film opens with a fast forward through Jonah Hex's (Brolin) origin. We learn of his fighting for the South, having to make a decision to do the right thing, and having the bad guy, a fellow named Turnbull (Malkovich) take revenge on his family. Turnbull also decides to give Hex a lasting reminder of the event in the form of a brand that leaves his face horribly scarred.
Jump ahead a few years. Hex makes a living as a feared bounty hunter, who also happens to be a wanted man. Turnbull was believed to be dead, but pops up with a plot to attack the Capitol. The government tracks down Hex and enlists his aid to stop Turnbull. The rest is history.
Yes, that is pretty much the story, such as it is. We get moments with Megan Fox's whore with the heart of gold that indicate some deeper relationship with Hex that we never get. Beyond the surface hate between Turnbull and Hex, the relationship is not explored all that well. The movie should really be based on the conflict between the two and, oddly, it isn't. Turnbull fancies himself a terrorist and has ideas to use some "nation-destroying" weapon to take down the government. The weapon uses those glowing orbs I mentioned earlier.
The movie just does not hold water. The focus of the plot is misguided, none of the characters feel like they are in the same movie. The scenes just stop as new ones begin, there is very little connective tissue to lead you along. It has a bizarre dream sequence with a fit on red sand. There is an appearance by an Indian tribe that has nothing to do with anything else. The bad guy tells Hex he wants him to watch his family die and then closes the door.
What is going on here?
I don't know what to say. I am not sure there is anyway to defend this movie. I really wanted to like it. I would have settled for a fun bad movie. What I got was Brolin grumbling every line in a story that defies explanation populated with characters from different movies who do not want to be in this movie it would seem.
The film is the live-action directing debut for Jimmy Hayward who previously directed Horton Hears a Who! and worked on films such as Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., and Finding Nemo. He does not seem to have a good sense for working with people. He fails to get good performances from his cast, has action that is hard to follow, and a pace that has no flow. He worked from a script by William Farmer and the duo of Neveldine & Taylor (Crank I + II, Gamer). I was surprised to see the Crank guys involved with this. It does not feel like them at all. I almost feel like the studio was sitting on their shoulders as they wrote, not allowing them to inject any original flavor. Then there is Mastodon's score. As a band they are pretty great, however this sounds nothing like them and I am not sure they were the right choice. I did not even know it was them until the credits, I just thought it was obnoxious music.
Bottom line. You would be better served to go see something else. This does not deliver. I am still convinced a good film can be made with the source material and would love to see it revisited by someone who has a passion for it. As it is, the movie is not witty, the action is not interesting, the characters have zero depth, and the story goes nowhere.