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Jonah Hex : How the West was lost…

Posted September 01, 2010 | By James White

In revenge for causing the death of his Confederate trooper son, Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich) kills fellow soldier Jonah Hex’s (Brolin) family and scars him horrifically. Hex survives and roams the US as a bounty hunter able to converse with the dead, before he’s called upon by the fledgling US government to track down and thwart Turnbull’s plans to unleash a steampunk super weapon on Washington…

There’s no getting past it: Jonah Hex is a sorry, muddled mess. After years of development, the DC Comics character has arrived after changing hands between directors, writers and even a studio mandate to tone down what could have been something bloody, brutal and entertaining.

The process has not been kind. Crank duo Neveldine and Taylor were originally tasked with bringing this to the screen, then, after a hurried search, the producers settled on Pixar veteran Jimmy Hayward. Though lacking in live-action experience, he was bursting with Hex love and has re-written the script to suit both his own Spaghetti Western tastes and later requirements that the stronger violent elements be gutted. Time constraints and other factors (including re-shoots with I Am Legend’s Francis Lawrence “overseeing” the work) have all left their toll on the bruised final product.

What remains has been hacked to pieces (an 80-minute running time?!) and left as a confused broth of Gothic Western, Spaghetti style and mid-budget compromise. Brolin, despite gamely trying to work round the prosthetic, never quite pulls off the growly antihero and most of the rest of the actors are simply wasted. Will Arnett, Aidan Quinn, Michael Fassbender, Wes Bentley and even The Wire’s Lance Reddick are all stuffed into the cast, but the script keeps them all limited to shuffling the plot forward. Malkovich, in particular, seems bored throughout, resulting in Turnbull as a deadly dull bad guy. Megan Fox looks good in a corset, but her turn as a prostitute with a soft spot for scarred bounty hunters is leaden.

Good points? Not many: Michael Shannon milks his evil sidekick role for all he’s worth. Hayward has dug up one or two arresting images, such as Hex’s various trips back to life and interactions with the deceased. But otherwise, we’re treated to a bland blend of straightforward action-pic plotting and some misjudged attempts to portray how the half-dead hero perceives the world. A scrap between Hex and Turnbull in particular is primed to drag derisive snorts rather than admiring awe. Hex? Cursed is more like it.

Isn’t one Wild Wild West enough? Okay, so Jonah Hex didn’t come with the same expectations, but it’s still an object lesson in how not to adapt a comic book. A crushing disappointment.

Source | EMPIRE

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