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Theatrical Review: JONAH HEX

GATW Guest Writer

by: GATW Guest Writer
June 18th, 2010

Jonah Hex Image

Rating: 2/5

DirectorJimmy Hayward
Writer(s): Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor, William Farmer
Cast: Josh Brolin,Megan FoxJohn MalkovichMichael FassbenderMichael Shannon
StudioWarner Bros. Pictures

At first glance, JONAH HEX appears to be nothing more than a questionable credit for several actors who should have stayed far, far away from a project like this. Sadly, seeing the whole movie does nothing to change this. You need look no further than the trailer to see a couple of things that fans of the comic series will find irritating about this adaptation, one being the combination of the "machine gun horse" and the "dynamite crossbow," and the other being Hex's newfound ability to bring dead people back to life for a little interrogation. Some may also notice from the trailer that any essence of the classic spaghetti Western feel has been blown to bits and replaced with cheap explosions and music from Mastadon.

If you're a loyal reader of the series, this movie will feel as if you dropped your kid off at daycare, and when you went back, they gave you a goat.

Actually, pretty much anyone who sees this movie will be given a goat, as you don't have to be a fan of the source material to recognize this movie's failure to properly utilize stars like Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Aidan Quinn, Michael Shannon, Will Arnett, and Michael Fassbender, of which Brolin and Fassbender are the closest to having memorable roles, while all the rest suffer badly from this film's many other shortcomings. While it's never good to waste talent, it might be okay if the film were able to pull off being a fun popcorn flick. Sadly, it doesn't, and what is instead thrown our way is a mash-up of contrived supernatural elements and cheesy one-liners, making up a film that ends up being more like THE CROW meets Capt. James West, and less like THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.

Director Jimmy Hayward tears Jonah Hex's real origin story apart to instead make Malkovich's Quentin Turnbull responsible for the death of Hex's family, after Jonah inadvertently caused the death of Turnbull's son and Hex's own friend, Jeb (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, on screen for all of three minutes). Turnbull then leaves his brand on Jonah's face, as a reminder of this already impossible to forget moment. Hex, not being the type to be branded, shaves the brand right off with a tomahawk, and sets out for vengeance only to find out Turnbull died in a hotel fire, forcing him to put all his vengeful energy into bounty hunting. He would've continued doing this until it killed him, however, upon hearing that Turnbull is alive, Hex makes vengeance his number one goal again.

It's hard to say anything positive about a film that a) is not faithful to its source material and b) doesn't provide a good interpretation of that material. There are many ways this movie could have been approached to make for a compelling story, and yet all we are given is this shallow, 82 minute-long Mastadon music video, nothing anywhere near a complete project. In fact, some of the film's more glowing errors, like the poor use of star power and choppy, confusing editing, could be the result of Hayward not knowing what he really wanted for this film, or that maybe the studios tried to do some editing on their own, or both. From what we are given in these 82 minutes, there are so very few signs of hope, it's amazing Hayward wasn't thrown off the project.

Some may be looking at seeing JONAH HEX from a less serious angle, chalking this up as just another summer smash of a movie that doesn't need Oscar-worthy performances, so long as the explosions and action are good. Unfortunately, even that aspect of this movie fails. Turnbull's biggest threat, the weapon he's building that could supposedly level an entire nation, is less than intimidating on screen, especially when one of Turnbull's men refers to the weapon's detonators as "pretty orange balls." Hex does deliver some pretty killer blows at times, it's just a shame that he's seen more with his gadgets (which are delivered up by another snubbed actor, Lance Reddick) than he does with his guns and tomahawk.

So what does JONAH HEX have to offer? Not much. I would say that it offers a decent cast, but in this movie the cast offers little to remedy everything else that is so wrong. I would say it offers a fun 82 minute-long action-packed ride through Old West mythology, but honestly Woody in TOY STORY 3 probably brings better action sequences than this. Pretty much the only thing positive that JONAH HEX has to offer (other than an ending) is Josh Brolin's pitch-perfect portrayal of this character. Rest assured, this film did not fail because of him. You need more than just on-screen explosions, a hot chick, and a guy in a cowboy hat to make a good Western, a lesson Jimmy Hayward will hopefully learn.

All things considered, I'd probably rather have a goat.

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