2010, PG-13, 80 min. Directed by Jimmy Hayward. Starring Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Aidan Quinn, Michael Shannon, Tom Wopat.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 25, 2010
Jonah Hex: He's not dead, but he's all messed up. Screenwriters Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (of the hyper-addled Crank franchise) provide this DC Comics' middle-tier Weird Western Tale with the X-treme/wicked/gnarly/"Dude, smash-cuts for everyone!" treatment. Directed by former Pixar animator-turned-replacement-director Hayward, the resulting film makes Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead look like a stone-cold neo-Western thoroughbred. It's not that this punch-drunk exercise in extraneous exposition and Adderall editing is utterly devoid of narrative sense (okay, yeah, it is, kinda) but that the inherent coolness of DC's straight-shootin', spook-talkin', bounty-huntin' killer with a conscience is totally lost in all the vapid, post-MTV clutter. While watching Jonah Hex, you'll yearn for the comparative calm of, say, The Wild Bunch or anything Antonio Margheriti ever did (and that includes Yor, the Hunter From the Future). Nonetheless, Brolin turns in a solid performance as Hex, a former Confederate soldier haunted by the death of his wife and son at the hands of his former ranking officer, Quentin Turnbull (a ham-on-wry Malkovich). Angst-ridden and vengeance-prone, Hex's dead man's hand holds an ace in the hole thanks to his scarred backstory, which includes both death and resurrection (by Native Americans, natch), leaving him with the ability to communicate with the dead. Romance was never high on DC's list of priorities, and accordingly Fox's whore with a heart of gold and (of all things) Vampira's waistline comes equipped with more action-oater add-ons (secreted ordnance, et al.) than actual charms. Where Jonah Hex does succeed is in the intensely detailed production design that especially re-creates the look and feel of a post-Civil War America gone freakish, which is backed by some sporadically splendid cinematography, courtesy of Mitchell Amundsen (Transformers). In the end, though, Jonah Hex is a sprawling, incoherent mess of a movie, all style (bad), no substance (worse), and capturing little if any of DC's Seventies-era mucho mojo.