It all made sense during Jonah Hex's ending credits that this PG-13 tease had Neveldine & Taylor (responsible for Crank) written all over it. But then it made even more sense to find out they dropped out and whoever took over left the good ideas on the cutting room floor. Based on the DC comic of the same name, Jonah Hex is the newest comic-book-character-turned-anti-hero movie.Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) is an old west scar-faced drifter, bounty hunter and stoic gunslinger who can track down anyone...and anything. Jonah's violent history is steeped in perplexing myth and legend and has left him with one foot in the natural world and one on the "other" side. Hex is hired to stop terrorist Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), the same man who murdered his wife and family, so of course revenge becomes the driving motive.
After a quick origin in unnecessary cutout animation with scattershot narration, the dusty plot never materializes past the vengeance theme. Hex was underdone in parts and way overdone in others. Fire seemed to be a theme, but after the bullet-hailing Gatling gun in the first major scene, it felt like they blew their fiery wad. Barely 81 minutes long (including credits), the end product plays like a highlights reel, connecting the dots to previously filmed explosive action sequences. For a finale, Turnbull's warmonger army attacks the nation's capitol on the Fourth of July. The weapons of mass destruction are cannonballs that look like oversized bowling balls and are detonated by glowing golden orbs.
While the film is flawed in more ways than one, Brolin himself just keeps getting better. No one could've pulled off this role as well. He's tough and ornery while literally doing it tongue-in-cheek (through his branded, scarred face we see his teeth and tongue). Megan Fox is shot with "Porn-meets-Cosmo" soft lens in every close up. Fox is a sexpot in a charisma vacuum - surprisingly empty and lifeless. Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) has the most fun as the knife-wielding tattooed psychopath. Malkovich exudes all his villainy in a Southern dialect, like an evil version of Grizzly Adams meets Tennessee Williams. The list of cameos is more proof of cutting room floor trash. Michael Shannon (Bug) is a fighting-ring impresario with "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" screen time, while Tom Wopat (yes that Dukes of Hazzard Wopat) chews up a few seconds, along with Will Arnett (Arrested Development), Wes Bentley (American Beauty) and Aidan Quinn.
Apparently when Neveldine and Taylor abandoned the project, director Jimmy Hayward, an animation vet (Horton Hears a Who!), took over in a slipshod way - conducting last-minute reshoots and failing to capture the tone of a ghoulish gunslinger that would have come naturally to Sam Raimi or Robert Rodriguez. Hex is violent and brutal, yet lacks blood and gore. All killing scenes were done off camera. I thought if you stuck a guy's head in a whirling propeller that we would see more than a shot of his feet twitching. Thankfully, composer Marco Beltrami and the band, Mastodon, come through with some decent sonic blasts and a frenetic spaghetti western metal score.
The tagline of the Hex is "Revenge Gets Ugly" - except it just gets mediocre. But even with all its glaring faults, Hex had the feel of a decent TV show. And if it had been a cliffhanger, I would probably watch it again next week.
Starring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox,
John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender
Directed by Jimmy Hayward