Jonah Hex (2010)
Starring: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Michael Fassbinder and Megan Fox
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Rating: Three of Ten Stars
When an ex-Confederate general (Malkovich) builds a super weapon with which to destroy Washington, D.C., the United States government calls upon scar-faced and ultra-violent bounty hunter Jonah Hex (Brolin) to track him and stop him.
The long-awaited "Johan Hex movie (by me, at least, a big fan of the Johan Hex comics from the 1970s and 1980s... and somewhat less so of the horror-tinged incarnation of the 1990s and the often hollow "return-to-basic" version of the late 2000s) was released today. Sadly, this is yet another example of a Hollywood movie where a bunch of semi-literate filmmakers thought their comic book source material wasn't comic-booky enough. As a result, they have made a Johan Hex movie that has the superficial veneer of the best of Johan Hex, but under the surface it's insipid garbage.
Jonah Hex was at his greatest when he was featured in stories flavored like spaghetti westerns... only with even more violence and grimness. He was at his best when he was down-to-earth tales where he might have a reputation of being some sort of supernatural being... but in truth is just a man who is very, VERY good at killing people. He was a man of honor who had been saddled with a reputation of betraying his best friend and his entire regiment during the Civil War.
That Jonah Hex is not in this movie. Hell, the Jonah Hex from the Tim Truman-illustrated western horror comics from the 1990s ("Riders of Worms and Such" is the one series I can think of at the moment) isn't even in this movie. The writers took away everything that was cool about Hex and replaced it with comic book hash. Bad comic book hash.
I understand and appreciate the need to streamline Johan Hex's back story for the purpose of the movie. I can even understand and appreciate the need to turn Quentin Turnbull from a small in-the-big-picture-but-looming-large-in-the-life-of-Hex "The South Will Rise Again"-type maniac.
But why did they feel the need to give Jonah Hex the ability to talk to dead people? Why did they feel the need to equip him with an arsenal of silly weapons, such as double-horseback mounted Gatlin guns and dynamite-flinging crossbows? And why did they decide that it wasn't good enough to have Turnbull as a monster threatening to destroy Hex on the way in pursuit of reviving the Confederacy--you know, keeping it more personal like the comic book did--but instead gave him a dimwitted "steampunk" super weapon with which to destroy Washington, D.C.?
People like to talk down about comic books, especially older ones. Because back in the 1960s and 1970s, there were no "graphic novels" and there were no "mature comics." However, the Jonah Hex stories reprinted in this book are far more intelligent and entertaining that I suspect either of the writers and producers and director involved in the "Jonah Hex" film would be able to produce in their wildest dreams. Why? Because they are apparently too arrogant and ignorant to recognize when a "comic book" is not "comic-booky" and that its good qualities go beyond the superficiality of drawings and should actually be read if it is to be adapted to another medium.
"Jonah Hex" is a movie that proves that Hollywood IS populated by illiterate people. The only possible way it could have turned out the way it did is if no one involved actually bothered to READ the Johan Hex comics but instead just looked at pictures and had their assistant's assistant skim a DC/Warner Bros licensing bible and summarize it for them. They've got the scarred bounty hunter, they've got the gun play, and they've got the occasional explosion... but they missed everything else that makes Jonah Hex what it is. And they filled that void with the worst kind of comic-booky crap.
This review would be appearing in Movies to Die Before Seeing if not for the excellent performance of Josh Brolin. Despite the trash he has to work with, he gives an excellent portrayal of Jonah Hex, and I can only dream about what he would have done if the writers had left the character with some of his true personality. The film's production crew also earns some credit for the dingy frontier towns that Hex visits during the early parts of the movie, the parts that actually bear a passing resemblance to the source material.
The only truly good performance is from Josh Brolin, but I can't really be too disgusted with John Malkovich and Michael Fassbinder, because they are probably just doing what they were told: That they were in a comic boom movie, so they had to ham it up like larger-than-life comic book villains.
I will, however, blame Megan Fox for sucking. If she was this lifeless in the "Transformers" movies, how can she possibly have a career beyond taking her clothes off in magazines and someday hoping to be a third-tier Bond Girl (if they ever bring those back)? The woman simply cannot act, and she brought nothing to this movie except a little bit of bare skin.
Don't waste your time and money on this movie, even if you might feel tempted just to go watch it for the explosions. You will regret it, even if it's only 70 minutes long. (Although the running-time did make me wonder what Charles Band would have been able to do with the sort of money this movie was made for. Whatever it might have been, it would have been better than this... which is at a level of below-average Band in everything but special effects.
Oh, and just in case my reference to "Brisco County Jr" at the top of the review made this film sound interesting, I apologize. That late lamented television series was a comic-booky and outrageous western with sci-fi and horror overtones that was GOOD. This film is very bad.
Spend your time and cash on the Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex book, or maybe on the "Brisco County Jr." DVD set.
But, whatever you do, don't see "Jonah Hex" until you can get the DVD as a cheap rental. Or, even better, not at all.