Jonah Hex (2010)

Jonah Hex (2010)

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Sorry, but what is it you actually do?
Sorry, but what is it you actually do?

Twitter Plot Summary: Jonah Hex wants revenge against the man who killed his family. This man just so happens to be plotting to take over the country. So it goes.

Genre: Action/Drama/Fantasy

Director: Jimmy Hayward

Key Cast: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Wes Bentley.

Five Point Summary:

1. I bet Hex has a terrible problem with excess spittle.
2. Why is Megan Fox in this again? Oh yeah, right.
3. Look, famous people!

4. It’s a bit supernatural, but that whole sub-plot is a missed opportunity.
5. The comics did it better.

Unlike almost everyone who will see this film, I am a regular reader of the Jonah Hex comic, although admittedly I’ve only followed it for the last four or five years since it was rebooted by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. I’d heard very bad things about the movie before release: script re-writes, reshoots and changes. There was an early rumour which implied Jonah Hex, the main character, was barely in the film, instead appearing occasionally throughout the run time and essentially being a guest character, much like Blade in the short-lived TV series.  And we all know how that turned out.

Megan Fox always seemed to be shot in soft focus. She also apparently has the ability to kiss a man and instantly make it switch from night to day. In all honesty, does Megan Fox really need to be shot in soft focus? Every time they did a close-up on her face my first thought was that my eyes had gone funky, shortly followed by thinking I was watching an episode of the original series of Star Trek. Her sole purpose is as eye candy and to give the script a tough female character, because any film that doesn’t have some form of “strong” female character is obviously sexist. She’s almost entirely superfluous to the plot (except to conform to stereotype and play the role of the kidnapped “heroine” at the film’s climax), and it seems entirely likely that she shot all of her scenes in a) the same room and b) probably in one day. Everybody, let’s take a look at The Thing – no female characters (except for the voice of the computer chess game, obviously), and the film is fantastic. If there are characters not essential to the plot then don’t write them in. And if you must write characters like Lilah into the script, at least do the decent thing and give them a reason for being there. With almost no exception, every character is a cipher, a generic archetype to push the drab revenge plot along.

Josh Brolin is typically solid in the title role. True, this isn’t a “No Country For Old Men” quality performance, but he seems to enjoy what he’s doing and, to be completely fair, that seems to apply to (almost) everybody involved in front of camera. This helps immensely. I can’t imagine how absolutely awful the movie would be if it was played 100% straight. As it stands it’s a guilty pleasure. John Malkovich in particular seems to relish the evil villain role, for a change not played by an English actor. That guy who played the weird kid in American Beauty (the one who has a strange obsession with carrier bags floating in the wind) shows up for a couple of minutes. Nothing outstanding, but solid enough. Jeffrey Dean Morgan pops up for a brief uncredited cameo, which adds a good piece of gravitas to proceedings, if only for a few brief minutes. Michael Fassbender, again, pops up as an Irish knave, and he looks to have fun with the material given to him, but quite frankly this entire film could have been cast with unknowns and it would have turned out almost exactly the same but markedly less entertaining to watch.

Thankfully the locations are very nice to look at and clearly a fair bit of thought has been put into them. Similarly, the Jonah Hex make-up (he’s horribly scarred, the vaguely rubbish origins of which you’ll discover in the movie) works well, but isn’t as hideous as it could be. I think it’s important that the burn was a prosthetic, I can only imagine how bad it would be if they had CGI’d his face for the entire movie run. Then again I’m sure that would have been rather expensive and I don’t think the budget would have stretched that far.

Do what you like, but I'm not watching Jonah Hex all the way through!
Do what you like, but I’m not watching Jonah Hex all the way through!

One other thing taking a vague cue from the comics is the supernatural, fantasy element. The current run of Jonah Hex comics doesn’t play up on this aspect of the character too much, it’s there but not rammed down your throat. Sadly that’s exactly what they do here. It’s a bit silly and doesn’t really need to happen, or could have easily been worked into the story without being as daft as it actually is. Hex brings dead soldiers back for a chat by touching their arm, and Malkovich’s Quentin Turnbull steals a bunch of chemical orbs that have their fair share of “Wild Wild West” about them, so he can go and blow up the White House or some other such nonsense. Bad omens indeed.

The script is surprisingly zingy in places, and if you’re one of these modern day ADD sufferers then you’ll love the quick cuts, the explosions and the ludicrous set pieces. For anyone after another top-notch serious Western movie (of which there are many), then you’ll be sorely disappointed. The short runtime (a measly 81 minutes, including credits) says everything. You’re in and out of the story in record time. If you want bang for your buck, then you’re not really going to find it here. Well, maybe a bit of a bang as things blow up with dynamite pistols (yeah you read that right), but otherwise… no. I’m not even going to blame the director Jimmy Hayward. He doesn’t do a bad job at all for a first timer, and both the production values and the acting is pretty solid, it just doesn’t gel. The script is to blame, plain and simple.

Overall thoughts? A nice, disposable movie but nothing more. It’s very much a wasted opportunity given how brilliant the character is in comic book form. I would have preferred a script that tied more into the style of the comic, and maybe featured a bit of actual bounty hunting other than the brief exposure we’re given at the start of the movie, but you can’t have it all. And ultimately, I still have the original comic to fall back on, so it could be a lot worse. Unless you’re a real glutton for punishment, give this a miss and go watch any one of Clint Eastwood’s Westerns instead. You’ll feel a lot better for it.

Favourite scene: Josh Brolin. Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Cemetery. Supernatural gubbins.

Quote: “You killed me, Jonah!” “You drew on me, Jeb.” “Yeah, that was a mistake.” “Well, obviously.”

Silly Moment:  Dynamite pistols. Very silly.

Score: 2.5/5

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