Due to some very public production troubles and a ridiculously soft 81 minute running time (74 minus the credits), the buzz on DC comic book adaptation Jonah Hex was sour for months before the picture’s release. Director Jimmy Hayward was reportedly removed from the editing suite, Warner realizing they had a turkey on their hands before audiences had a chance to confirm such pessimistic suspicions. The film came and went at the box-office with absolutely no fanfare, and critics slammed it as one of this year’s worst cinematic endeavours. In truth “Jonah Hex” is simply too bland and artistically tampered with to instil true hatred, the behind the scenes woes are painfully obvious due to the film’s incoherent editing and rushed plot structure. It’s obvious that studio interference ran rife with this maligned property, making it difficult to pin the blame on any particular individual. Jonah Hex plays more like a sloppy TV pilot than a feature length motion picture, underwhelming at every turn and failing to exploit its talented cast for the entirety of its brief duration.
After failing to uphold General Turnbull’s (John Malkovich) barbaric orders in the Civil War, Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) was forced to watch his family burn, and have his face mutilated by his vengeful superior. With the help of some Native American wisdom Hex just about survived the ordeal, dedicating the rest of his life to bounty hunting and the decimation of evil. The only person that he feels any affection for is Lilah (Megan Fox), a struggling prostitute who is able to see the scarred vigilante as more than just a legendary killing machine. As the 4th of July approaches Hex gets word from the government that Turnbull is back, and armed with a weapon capable of destroying the nation. In exchange for stopping his crazed adversary Hex is to be granted a full pardon for his blood-soaked lifestyle, but the surly bounty hunter is more interested in finally finishing off the man who murdered his family than being excused for his past actions.
All Jonah Hex has to offer in way of action are some pedestrian fist fights and a few tepid shootouts. The picture lacks any semblance of spectacle, instead it plays out in the most formulaic and banal fashion it possibly can. Jonah Hex is a film completely without visual invention, it’s competently photographed, but the cinematography and action choreography seem totally unoriginal and undistinguished. Very little effort appears to have been made in the department of cooking up excitement and thrills, because for a gun totting western Jonah Hex is amazingly dull.
The editing and storytelling is fairly generic, but the movie also suffers from a lack of singular direction. The film is a messy amalgamation of various filmmaking visions, something confirmed by the short running time and lazy editing. The picture jumps from one sequence to another with no emotional conviction or even viable sense or motivation, and individual plot points are explained very poorly. Hex’s connection with the dead is a pertinent example, never once does the project make clear how this came to be or detail the laws which govern said interactions. From a dramatic perspective the movie is totally impotent; Hex’s rivalry with Turnbull is clichéd, whilst his burgeoning relationship with Lilah is criminally underwritten. Rounding out the list of offences is the picture’s reliance on montages, filling the running time with ineptly stitched together sequences of adventuring, all accompanied by a bombastic yet bland musical score from the normally dependable Marco Beltrami.
The cast are an efficient group of performers, all betrayed by a shamefully idiotic screenplay. Brolin carries off Hex’s roar and moody nature well, but due to the one dimensional writing is never able to convincingly realize the character’s tragic back story. Malkovich hams it up for a quick paycheque as Turnbull, whilst Megan Fox is abandoned by a script that requires her only to expose her cleavage and look vaguely morose. Michael Fassbender marks the only element of thespian relief, delivering a cheeky and superficially entertaining turn as Turnbull’s chief accomplice.
The finale is a complete waste of space, packing no sense of momentum or scale. For a feature with obvious blockbusting pretensions “Jonah Hex” is ludicrously unremarkable, not one moment in the production registering as memorable. The film is a puff piece from start to finish, studio fingerprints and shoddy workmanship rendering Jonah Hex a certifiable dud. Sequels are all but completely off the cards following the picture’s dire financial performance, something that most filmgoers will probably view as an act of mercy. Maybe then Jonah will stay buried in the world of comics where he so obviously belongs, because the format of film has no more use for this ragged antihero.
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Cast: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett
Runtime: 81 min