REVIEW: ‘Jonah Hex’

Grade: F

There were rumors flying around the net that the comic book adaptation Jonah Hex had been undergoing frantic last-minute edits in post-production. The film has four editors in the credits, which makes you wonder whose story is getting told. After seeing the film at last night’s screening, I have to imagine that half of the movie has been left on the cutting room floor, because what I saw was nothing more than an 80-minute shell of a movie.

The Jonah Hex film that will be opening in theatres on Friday resembles nothing of the DC Comic on which it is based and it barely even constitutes a narrative film. Scenes are hastily thrown together, sub-plots spiral off into nowhere, and the central plot is so formulaic and boring that it barely maintains the audience’s attention. The complete running time for the film is only 80-minutes including the credits, which gives you barely enough time to figure out what the hell is going on and why you’re still in your seat.

Director Jimmy Hayward, whose only other credit is the animated film Horton Hears a Who seems to get his inspiration from the worst moments in Michael Bay movies. The explosion to silence ratio is about thirty to one and the excessive action is not even creative. It’s as if Hayward cut and paste the most conventional moments from action classics without giving them the same sense of fun. How many times have we seen people jumping off an exploding boat? It was never a less exciting bit than when Josh Brolin and Megan Fox do it in Jonah Hex.

The story of Jonah Hex seems to have been pulled out of a revenge movie formula book. There is a hero (Josh Brolin) who has been wronged by a villain (John Malkovich) who is evil for the sake of evilness. The hero only trusts a kind-hearted, but badass prostitute (Megan Fox). The villain wants to destroy the world and kill the hero in the process and the hero is bound by duty to stop him. Throw in a few explosions, slutty costumes, some illogical weapons, and you have a movie.

There is nothing wrong with movies following a formula, mind you. The problem is when the movie takes itself far too seriously in its attempt to impress with its action scenes. Jonah Hex is hard to even enjoy for its over-the-top campiness. It doesn’t poke fun at itself in the same way a good action movie like Independence Day or Die Hard does and as a result the audience doesn’t have any fun.

Only one character in the film gets a fair amount of screen time, that being the title character Jonah Hex. The other characters are glossed over with no development. Instead they only exist as familiar archetypes that the writers assume we have seen before. It’s quite a contradiction seeing Toy Story 3, where every one has a story, back to back with Jonah Hex, where no one has a story.

The filmmakers constantly use flashbacks throughout the movie. Almost every action scene is cross-cut with the opening scene of the movie where Hex is forced to watch his wife and son burned alive. It’s as if the filmmakers want to keep reminding the audience of those first five minutes when the movie still kind of held interest. It also could have to do with the fact that the film was so sliced up during post-production that the fight scenes aren’t complete enough to stand on their own.

The usually stellar Josh Brolin turns in one of the worst performances of his career that was likely only due to the film’s editing. The filmmakers never give him time to show his characters’ emotional depth, always cutting away just before you sense a soul is about to show. John Malkovich is usually enough to redeem any bad movie, but he is in the film far too little to get any type of feel for his performance. Megan Fox turns in another one of her mannequin-like performances – she is completely unable to emote, but looks good in the costumes.

Apart from the dismal visual editing the sound editing also leaves a lot to desire. The film has a head-ache inducing rock and roll soundtrack by Marco Beltrami and John Powell. It seems that the producers seem to have decided that their niche is with the teenage male audience who drool over Megan Fox, don’t care about plot, and think they’re too cool for Toy Story 3.

The mockery of this film’s existence comes to a head with one of the final lines of the film. After Jonah Hex saves the country he is meeting with a U.S. general (I think) in a government building. The general takes out a silver star, hands it to Hex, and says “what do you think? The country needs a protector.” Jonah Hex stares at it and in an attempt at forced pathos he replies “I don’t think countries have Sherrifs.”

You’re right, Jonah. They don’t.

Bottom Line: 80-minutes of your time is too much to donate to the terrible mess that is Jonah Hex.

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