Movie Review: Jonah Hex (2010)

Josh Brolin in Jonah Hex
Photo: Warner Bros.

Jonah Hex centers on the titular comic book Confederate-turned-bounty hunter played by Josh Brolin, a man who’s watched his family burn at the hand of Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), a former Confederate army colonel-turned-terrorist. Vowing revenge on Turnbull, Hex begins working for the U.S. military, and in exchange for the capture of Turnbull he’ll receive a full pardon. Of course, Hex accepts and the story doesn’t get much deeper than that.

Adapted from the comic book series of the same name, Hex has apparently been toned down from the highly graphic nature of the comic, though the PG-13 rating is taken just about as far as it can get as Hex leaves very few alive on his warpath to kill Turnbull. However, even some highly suggestive scenes from early trailers have been cut from this release indicating an unrated DVD/Blu-ray release is likely to take greater advantage of Megan Fox, playing the Civil War prostitute Lilah and perhaps everything else the original script likely had in it.

Maybe there was something to Jonah Hex before Warner Bros. stamped it for mass audience appeal. The flick was written by R-rated script jockeys Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor who are best known for the hard R-rated Crank franchise, but nothing too exciting really happens in this feature, which is bland at best. Chopped down to about 80 some minutes once you take front and back-end credits into account, along with a rather slipshod animated sequence at the opening in an attempt to speed the story along, there’s very little left to grab hold of.

As Hex, Josh Brolin is taxed with the attempt to create a meaningful character while saddled with a face prosthetic that limits his speech to gruff mumbles and a script that doesn’t do him any additional favors. I can only assume lack of money was the reason director Jimmy Hayward didn’t go for a full on green screen effect such as Aaron Eckhart’s make-up in The Dark Knight, but what’s offered here just doesn’t fit the bill.

Megan Fox adds little other than sweaty cleavage and a dirty bustier to the proceedings though I wouldn’t call it her fault. Her character is suddenly introduced and just as quickly abandoned until a damsel in distress is necessary to prolong the film’s finale as Turnbull has gained possession of a Civil War-style weapon of mass destruction about as ill-conceived as they come. Tension is lacking and interest wanes as this film never grabbed me by the guts and demanded I pay attention.

My personal enjoyment watching Michael Fassbender in pretty much anything can’t be shared here. Playing Burke, Turnbull’s oxymoronic Irish lightweight heavy, Fassbender, along with everyone else working for Turnbull, is given no room to create a character other than to stand in front of Hex long enough to die. If you’re paying enough attention you’ll likely notice Michael Shannon in a tiny, tiny, tiny role and Will Arnett even gets about five minutes of screen time. Wes Bentley also shows up long enough to offer the worst Southern accent I’ve heard in some time and, of course, I have to mention John Malkovich whose villainy is about as predictable as each of his evil one-liners.

Beyond the shallow acting and character development, CGI crows dominate the landscape whenever obvious green screen backgrounds don’t. Perhaps Hayward is more at home with films such as Horton Hears a Who (his only other feature directorial outing), or the PG-13 rating caused this one to lose its bite and whimsy, or this was simply a troubled project from the start. Either way, little worked, because there was very little to work with.

It’s not that Jonah Hex is incredibly bad as much as it is unnecessary and empty in its current state. Much of the film feels like videogame cut screens and the action is muted at best. You can mark down Jonah Hex as just the latest example of crummy movies setting out to fill the growing geek niche and offering little-to-nothing in its attempt.