I’ve seen a lot of bad movies during my time as a reviewer-slash-critic. In fact, I’ve found that the most terrible films are generally the easiest ones to review. This isn’t some trade secret that I’m unveiling to help explain my occasionally venomous description of Hollywood’s lesser creations. The simple truth is that it becomes a far simpler task to promote or dissuade people from viewing a movie about which you have a legitimately impassioned opinion. Good or bad, malice or praise, films that lie on the extremities of the emotional spectrum just elicit a more substantial response.
And then there is Jonah Hex.
It isn’t that this movie is a western and therefore cliche-ridden. It isn’t that Josh Brolin as the title character and John Malkovich as his nemesis turn in performances that are bewilderingly one-sided. Hell, it isn’t even the fact that entire action sequences are filmed in darkness, leaving the audience more bewildered as to what occurred than intrigued by the mysterious use of ‘subtle lighting’. Nope, none of these shortcomings were egregious enough for me to really care about the hows or whys that brought them from the creators’ minds to the screen. In short, this movie was able to produce little more than apathetic ‘meh’ from both myself and what appeared to be the entirety of the audience. That’s right, even the ever-forgiving screener crowds were unimpressed. Now that takes some doing.
Jonah Hex is based on the long-standing DC Comics character whose ill-fated career as a Confederate soldier has brought him both pain and a mystical ability to commune with the dead. Not your average gunslinger to be certain, but Brolin’s take on the character is exactly that. Average. While the film’s trailers and studio hype might have you believe that Jonah Hex is equal parts western and sci-fi, this movie fails to deliver on either theme. Jonah Hex is probably better summed up as a combination of Ghost Rider and Wild Wild West, but without the fun of either. And yes, I know that those were both terrible films.
Hex’s story is one of revenge. Revenge on Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), who oversaw the murder of his family. Revenge on himself for allowing it to happen. Revenge on the Union for refusing to be nothing but a bureaucratic mess, I guess. Brolin plays on this theme by acting aloof to everyone he meets, almost as if he’s irritated that he allowed himself to be talked into a role in the film. Malkovich as Turnbull is part Loony Toon (think Yosemite Sam) and part Cyrus The Virus. The sum of these parts make for exactly what you might expect, another stereotypical movie villain with a penchant for blowing shit up. Megan Fox is also apparently in the movie. However, I faintly remember seeing her for more than a five minute segment, during which she spends her time sucking face with Hex and halting what little pace the film had with her godawful accent.
Jonah Hex isn’t the worst film you’ll see all year (one can hope) but it is certainly a mess. Brolin and Malkovich were clearly involved for little more than a paycheck, while one gets the feeling that Fox is either too dense or too vapid (or both) to discern that this is nothing more than a lateral move from Transformers. Sadly, this movie will accomplish exactly what it set out to do, create a comic movie stopgap between Iron Man 2 and Scott Pilgrim. For now, we’ll all suffer at the hands of Jonah Hex, though I think it is we who are due for a bit of revenge.