There’s just something about Westerns that screams out, “Mesh me with other genres.” Perhaps it’s because most traditional westerns are one-note bores that fail to gain any recognition (don’t get your panties in a bunch — I said “most”) and the application of futuristic weaponry and demonic spirits seems like a surefire way to breathe in a sense of modernity in a withering genre. Well, writer John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga were most likely going for such an effect with their graphic novel, “Jonah Hex,” which was published by DC Comics. Now according to Wikipedia, the popular (though I’ve never heard of it pervious to seeing the film adaptation) comic series chronicled the adventures of the brutish antihero, whose face is scarred extensively, as he battles the forces of evil which threaten to destroy the fabric of Western living. Some important plot-points in the comic series included Jonah’s battle with alcoholism, his mother’s turn to prostitution, and a family which he began to raise. With a story like this, it would seem like “Jonah Hex” would turn out to be at least a competent popcorn flick, but what Jimmy Hayward delivers is a complete atrocity. His Jonah Hex, which stars the talented Josh Brolin in the lead and the equally if not more capable John Malkovich as the antagonist, features not only cringe-inducing performances from both of these greats (which are on the same level as the talentless Megan Fox’s performance) and but also horrid pacing, dialog, and ineptly done action scenes that falter due to a PG-13 rating.
The first thing that alerts the audience of a potential stinker is the clichéd battle montage which opens up the film for us. Next we see Hex, who is played by Brolin, tied and forced to watch the massacre of his family because of his betrayal to a group of renegades led by a sadistic Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich). Seems, thanks to his morals, Hex refused to continue slaughtering countless women and children for Turnbull and this about-face caused the death of Turnbull’s only son and made him a wanted man. Hex is branded and left for dead but he is nursed back to health and returns as a badass motherfucker who has the power to resurrect the dead for a short period of time.
He arms himself with a duo of Gatling guns and rides off on horseback in order to become a bounty-hunter. But news hits Hex that Turnbull has committed suicide and thus he commits to a relatively peaceful life (apart from killing bad guys and getting shot at that is). Somewhere amidst this, we are introduced to Lilah (Megan Fox), a prostitute who is infatuated by Hex. This happens without warning and Lilah is devoid of any character development, however, this is quite common in Jonah Hex.
But the steampunk elements of the plot come into play when Hex finds out that Turnbull faked his death and is planning on using a device which has the potential of annihilating entire cities at once (using some sort of dragon ball contraption). The president hires Hex to foil this plan, gain revenge and once again save the day.
Hayward, who also directed Horton Hears a Who!, was obviously not up to the task of making an enjoyable trip to the “Weird West.” Instead his latest film, which begins to fester within minutes, just seems like a bunch of random clips put together around a paper-thin and predictable plot. None of the characters are interesting nor likable and it’s really a sign of a films mediocrity if one tends to root for the villain instead of the protagonist (seriously, seeing the city blow up would have been a little bit entertaining).
Another of the film’s faults is its amateurish script written by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. It’s chock full of unintentional laughs and the jokes that are intended to make the audience laugh, simply illicit groans (except one which involves a dog). To top it off, Brolin speaks in an almost untranslatable monotone accent which slowly got on my nerves.
Lastly, the action scenes are a mess. For a movie like this, an R rating is a necessity. Most of the fighting is incredibly censored and there is none of the grit that Jonah Hex originally promised. But at least the pyrotechnics employed on the film were competent. The explosions look decent on screen but this alone offers no redeeming value for the film.
The entire production of Jonah Hex must have been in fact, hexed, because such failure can only be accomplished through sorcery.