MOVIE REVIEW: Jonah Hex
A title for a review that curses a film is never a good thing. Many a western has been seen by these eyes and even the worst spaghetti, 5 second dub delay, rag-tag acted, thrown together at the last second, cowboy versus Indian flick would be better than that sack of dung also known as Jonah Hex. Sure, it’s a comic book adaptation and certain rules apply to such a beast like: “Can’t be taken seriously,” “Little to do with the original idea,” “Quick score to make a cheap buck.” Well, films like Jonah Hex make all of that true, and then some. It ain’t for a lack of trying, mind you, because it was a valiant effort. But that dog won’t hunt!
It is a very good time to be affiliated with and a fan of DC Comics these days. The major bullet points are as follows: 1) Two phenomenal Batman reboots (thank you, Chris Nolan), 2) The success of Blackest Night (thank you, Geoff Johns) and 3) The incredible hype and intrigue surrounding the Green Lantern feature (thank you, Ryan Reynolds). DC is throwing haymakers with their alpha licenses to really compete with the newly formed Disney/Marvel alliance. As such, even the most casual fans must question the timing of even pursuing the Jonah Hex license. At best, Hex is of second tier significance with the kind of limited appeal that makes characters like Lobo, Herculean in comparison. I can only assume DC was going for as many green-lights as possible to blitz their brand and I cannot stress enough how dangerous promoting quantity over quality is in any business based in the arts.
This production had all the right personalities (in terms of cast) to make it a success, but the sad truth is that Jonah Hex is not an important enough character to warrant an equally capable writing and special effects team to match. A mere budget of $47 million doesn’t leave much for quality on screen to generate word of mouth, let alone commercial promotion. Jonah Hex was a bad film, not worth anyone’s money and hopefully does not turn off too many casual fans for DC’s future endeavors.
The success of a Hollywood film is just like the success of a professional sports organization: it starts at the top. Without focused and motivated ownership and management, a franchise orbits around mediocrity. I equate ownership and management to the production staff of feature films: producers, directors and writers. It is fairly normal to have a number of producers of various ranks to be credited to any given Hollywood production. Jonah Hex had 13, which means you have a bunch of hands in the cookie jar trying to spread $45 million in 13 different ways.
The director, Jimmy Hayward, had no experience leading a live action production as his experience has been solely as an animator for various productions since 1994. Co-writers Mark Neveldine and Brain Taylor are also novices whose credits amount to Gamer (2009) and both Crank features. Yes, everyone has to start somewhere and even Geoff Johns had to pay his dues, but the difference between grunts and talent is the ability to do more with less and the leadership of Jonah Hex showed how green they all really were. After having seen the film, the only member of the entire production staff who earned his or her paycheck was the casting director, Bernard Telsey, for bringing in A-list names (Malkovich, Brolin and Fox) to be tied to a very obscure license with no money. FYI, a reviewer praising a film’s casting director is never a good place to be starting from.
Not much can be said of the Jonah Hex film itself. It is a fantasy/western led by Brolin Jr. that makes Brolin Sr.’s foray into the same hybrid genre in Westworld (1973) best picture of the year in comparison. The story is extremely bland as it banks on the audience having seen and heard the “vengeance-driven-hero-tale” enough that it devotes an anemic 2 minutes of screen time to Hex’s origin. I do not understand why the writers were in such a rush to glaze over any opportunity they had to get the audience emotionally invested. It’s not like the story went anywhere else of interest. In this case, the story is kind of like the Metro Rail we have here in Buffalo, NY: it goes from nowhere to nowhere.
Many of the transitions between scenes were very awkward, especially when cutting to any scene where Jonah Hex is in transit. I believe I could count the total minutes Brolin actually spent on a horse with one hand because the same exact riding shot gets played out so much that it was reminiscent of how much Gangster’s Paradise received the “repeat master” treatment on the radio back in 1995. The rest of the story is literally the exact plot from Wild Wild West (1999) and that gem of a film was so successful that it grossed about $60 million less than its budget.
The only other shining light of this production was Megan Fox. What was that? Yes, that is correct, but certainly not for her performance. Megan Fox does what Megan Fox does. She is hot and despite her various costumes not being revealing enough, her hotness dissipates the onscreen mind rot the audience is otherwise subjected to. This was definitely the kind of production one would expect Josh Brolin to tank for a paycheck (I guess you get what you pay for), but I was especially disappointed in John Malkovich. Every line of every scene had the consistency of wet toilet paper. Every moment of pertinence was preposterous. Malkovich’s performance had me so negatively charged that I was hell-bent on burning my copies of Con Air (1997) and Rounders (1998) in effigy. After I calmed down, I simply added him to my least favorite actor blacklist. John Malkovich, you mean nothing to me now.
Attention everyone: DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE, DO NOT BUY IT, and DO NOT RENT IT! And if you are so inclined as to give the same treatment to other productions any of the actors in Jonah Hex align themselves with, please do so, they’ve earned it. I am certain the brass at DC is wishing they had a hot tub time machine of their own to abort this tragedy. SHAME on DC for pushing Hex! SHAME on Warner Brothers for distributing Hex! And SHAME on you if you fork over cash for Hex!