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The Fashionably Late Review: Jonah Hex

May 19, 2011

Enjoy that popcorn, everyone!

Friends, let me say this up front. If it’s ever a rainy day and Jonah Hex is on TV — even if all that’s on every other channel is Bird on a Wire — skip it. If you’re ever at a gathering and someone wants to watch a movie and the Jonah Hex DVD pops into the player, get the hell out of there. I’d even go so far as to say if you even have a friend who mentions in passing that he or she enjoyed Jonah Hex, end that friendship immediately.

Jonah Hex, for the unitiated, is based on a DC comic about a vengeful ex-confederate soldier who can talk to dead people and hunts the man who killed his family. That synopsis, I think you’ll agree, doesn’t sound horribly awful. It at least sounds somewhat intriguing. And it probably would be, if the movie wasn’t absolutely terrible.

Josh Brolin — unwisely cashing in his critical-darling chips — plays the title character of Hex, complete with the character’s signature, grotesquely-scarred face. It’s a super-fake-looking makeup job, with a weird bridge of flesh connecting his mouth from top to bottom on one side — and this ridiculous makeup is almost so off-putting that it’s hard to invest one’s self in the character. He’s not likeable (he’s supposed to be, one assumes, a total badass who doesn’t care), and there’s so little backstory about him (all we know is that at one point he was a pretty decent guy…I guess) that it’s hard to see how he’s changed, save one flashback sequence that’s used twice in the film, wherein he’s tied up and made to watch his home burn with his wife and child inside.

The fact that this same exact flashback is used twice, and the movie is only 81 minutes long as it is, should be an indicator of how far director Jimmy Hayward is reaching for material here. The script is so bare-bones it’s difficult to understand how on earth it lured Brolin and John Malkovich as Quentin Turnbull, the film’s villain. The entire film has the feel of a terrible FOX pilot that will most certainly be canceled. People say things only to check things off a narrative list: short speech about the bad guy, check; rumors about how much of a loose cannon Jonah Hex is, check; short scene detailing the third act’s villainous plan, check. One gets the idea that at some point an actual scriptwriter looked at this script and made some suggestions, but instead of rewriting the film in adherence to these suggestions, they just added some lines.

There is also an absurdly huge amount of things in Jonah Hex that make no sense, really. One such thing is why Megan Fox is as a prostitute who clearly “takes no shit,” has a crush on the extremely unlovable Jonah Hex and joins him in the final act with a gun to take out the baddies. Another is what on earth Aidan Quinn and Will Arnett, who play Union higher-ups, are even doing in the movie. Arnett, in fact, has barely any lines in an early scene and only pops up again in the third act with a megaphone to try to stop Malkovich’s boat and dies. It’s like a scene for an extra that Will Arnett just happened to play. There are also a lot of scenes featuring crows, which I assume are meant to be symbolism for Jonah’s dark side, and a bizarre scene in which Hex digs up the grave of the villain’s son– a man Jonah Hex killed — to find out where the villain is, and the son is more than willing to help his “buddy” out. Sure, that makes sense. Oh, and I almost forgot; Jonah Hex also has a bunch of amazingly advance ultra-weapons that he gets from helpful general store owner. Of course.

If none of this seems comprehensible on paper, it makes even less sense as a feature film. The final act features a giant ship, manned by Malkovich’s “super-mean” Quentin Turnbull, which is going to sail into Independence Harbor during some event which isn’t exactly clear, and fire a bunch of cannonballs into the nation’s capital — but every fourth or fifth cannonball is a glowing red orb of which we learn virtually nothing about except that it causes a huge explosion, which makes one wonder why Turnbull just doesn’t fire a series of the exploding ones into the capital. Malkovich seethes as he hisses lines which infer that he expects this awesome attack to kill a lot more people and cause a lot more destruction than realistically it would likely cause. There’s a brief fight, then the movie’s over.

Sorry if I’m spoiling anything for you; it’s only for your protection. I think I lost IQ points watching Jonah Hex. It’s really an almost awesomely awful movie, the kind of movie that makes you wish someone got fired over. What was meant, in some bizarre studio exec’s mind, to be a blockbuster summer tentpole movie is nothing but a glorified Syfy network feature. But hey, look on the bright side. It’s only 81 minutes long. If you’re going to be attacked in the brain, eyes and ears for any amount of time, 81 minutes sure beats two hours. Jonah Hex is a bad movie. A bad, bad, bad one. You’ve been warned.

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