Screen Rant's Paul Young Reviews Jonah Hex
I didn’t set my hopes very high walking into the theater to watch Jonah Hex. I knew it was based on a DC comic book character and that was the extent of my knowledge on the subject. I was a clean slate, my mind a lump of unformed clay just waiting for director Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who!) to wrap his hands around it like a scene from Ghost, molding it into something exciting and entertaining.
Well Hayward is no Swayze, because I’m sad to say that Jonah Hex is NOT going to be the surprise hit of the summer. The film’s story and pacing clods along like a horse who’s thrown a shoe, unbeknownst to the rider.
The pacing issues are largely due to the scatter-brained writing style of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, or as they are known in the credits “Neveldine & Taylor.” Jonah Hex very much follows the fast-paced and hectic styling that N&T have established in their previous works, Crank, Crank: High Voltage and Gamer.
The story of Jonah Hex opens on the main character, played by Josh Brolin, doing a voice over as a group of Confederate soldiers unleash mayhem upon a bunch of unsuspecting Union soldiers. Hex talks about how he was bred for war, how war is in his blood and war is what he is good at. Then there are some jumbled cut shots of a different outfit of Confederate soldiers being captured by the Union Army for reasons that won’t be fully explained until 45 minutes into the film. The audience is just supposed to “go with it” I suppose.
The opening credits are actually very entertaining and are, in my opinion, the best part of the movie. Hayward has used a modified version of cell shading animation to tell the entire story of who Jonah Hex is in a short 5 minute animated clip. Jonah Hex (as he is called throughout the entire film because no one ever calls him just Jonah – EVER!) has made an enemy in his former commander Quentin Turnbull, played by the once-great John Malkovich, who’s performance here is only slightly better than Megan Fox’s.
Jonah Hex killed Turnbull’s son and betrayed his unit - so, in an act of retaliation, Turnbull’s burns Hex’s wife and son alive forcing him to watch them die. Then, just to “rub it in,” he scars Hex with a branding iron. But that’s not how Jonah Hex gets that beautiful face we’ve all seen in the trailers. That part comes later.
So far, even though a couple of minor plot points are hazy, the story is fairly simple and easy to follow - it’s man versus man, mano a mano, the anti-hero pitted against the villain that did him wrong. I get that, and if the writers would have left it to that, the movie probably would be much better. Instead, Turnbull leaves his freshly scarred conquest hanging on an X from which, of course, he survives with help from the Crow Indians. As Jonah Hex explains, he didn’t become immortal, but was close enough to being dead that he can now speak with the dead.
Jonah Hex turns to vigilantism after the supposed death of his archenemies and winds up on the wrong side of the law. However there is one problem: turns out Turnbull was just faking death and has plans to blow up the entire Unites States Union. Um...OK. He wants to do it using a weapon that was invented by…wait for it…Eli Whitney. That’s right, the inventor of the cotton gin apparently was a military weapons genius and designed but never built a super-mega-kill-everything-Gatling cannon.
President Ulysses S. Grant thinks the only person capable of catching and stopping Turnbull is Jonah Hex and soon sets him out on the task. The hunt for Turnbull and his rowdy band of rabble rousers begins and quickly ends 5 minutes later after Jonah Hex talks to a fresh corpse. Along the way Jonah Hex joins up with his favorite prostitute, Lilah (Megan Fox), who gets mixed up in things when Turnbull’s right hand man, Burke, kidnaps her.
The rest of the film is all loud, chaotic action that makes little to no sense and includes a wealthy Southern gentleman traitor, a black general store owner that builds “high tech” weapons that only get used once, some sort of demon albino cage fighter named “Snake” and what can only be described as a case of Dragonballs. And you get to enjoy all of this action and nonsense to poorly written and executed power rock music. Because, you know, that’s how it was back then...
What worked in Jonah Hex? Josh Brolin’s performance is actually pretty good and there are some scattered moments of humor that work (I liked the bit about the horse’s name) and a couple of the fight scenes are enjoyable.
What didn’t work in Jonah Hex? Megan Fox and John Malkovich’s performances are just plain bad and neither one of them can hold a “Southern” accent. All of these characters live in Georgia and all the actors playing them can do is say “Ya’ll” a few times. It doesn’t help that most of the corny one-liners we hear in the trailer are delivered like they are corny one-liners in the film.
I can believe a lot when it comes to movies. I can believe that Eli Whitney was a weapons genius, that a giant cannon that will obliterate everything in its path could be built in the late 1800’s and a crow flying out of a man’s mouth during an Indian medicine ritual but I draw the line in the believability sand when Megan Fox turns into a iron slinging Super whore.
Fortunately for moviegoers, Toy Story 3 opens this weekend as well and if Warner Bros. is very lucky, most people will forget that Jonah Hex was even in theaters.