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With: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, John Gallagher Jr., Tom Wopat, Michael Shannon, Wes Bentley, Julia Jones, Luke James Fleischmann, Rio Hackford
Written by: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor, based on a story by Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor, William Farmer, and based on a character created by John Albano, Tony Dezuniga
Directed by: Jimmy Hayward
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and sexual content
Running Time: 80
Date: 06/17/2010
IMDB

Jonah Hex (2010)

1 Star (out of 4)

And the Horse He Rode in On

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I love the old Jonah Hex comic books, and adore Josh Brolin and John Malkovich, and am willing to look at Megan Fox in almost anything, but the new Jonah Hex movie is horribly botched. The original Hex comics were moody and often thoughtful with a touch of cynical humor, and Jonah sometimes performed good deeds in spite of himself. The new movie is exceedingly dumb and violent, with Hex acting out of nothing but revenge, and with a villain determined to destroy the world for no good reason (he's a clumsy attempt to parallel modern-day terrorists). Sexy Megan Fox seems to have been thrown in only for her marquee value; she has nothing to do and contributes almost nothing.

Once a soldier in the Civil War, Jonah Hex (Brolin) finds his life turned around when a renegade general, Turnbull (Malkovich), takes revenge and kills Hex's wife and son. Hex nearly dies and comes back terribly scarred, and with certain supernatural powers, a link between life and death. He becomes a bounty hunter and occasionally visits a sexy prostitute, Lilah (Fox). When he learns that Turnbull is still alive, he rides off to take his revenge. Unfortunately, it's only a matter of time before Turnbull completes and puts into use a terrible new weapon powerful enough to destroy the entire country.

Directed -- astoundingly -- by Jimmy Hayward of the wonderful Horton Hears a Who! (2008), the new movie is clumsy, choppy and very poorly shot, and it's difficult to follow the action. It's hard to believe that someone who had worked with the clearly defined spaces of 3D animation could turn in such a muddle. The movie has four credited editors, and I can only imagine that they went to work, furiously, simultaneously, with four pairs of scissors. One really awkward scene has Hex trying to converse with a former colleague while a knockdown, drag-out fight takes place right next to them. The conversation keeps cutting away to the fight, and vice versa, and it's hard to follow either.

A loud, jarring, heavy metal-type score rattles on cacophonously and sometimes makes it difficult to hear the dialogue. But the dialogue that is audible is simplistic and annoying, so I'm not sure which is worse. (Did producer Akiva Goldsman contribute some of his brain-dead prose?) None of the actors can break through this thick, heavy noise; Malkovich can sometimes be a great scenery chewer, but here there's no scenery left to chew. Brolin was a great cowboy-type in No Country for Old Men, but the ill-timed scenes in Jonah Hex leave him with barely any character beyond the stringy scar stuck over his lips.

The movie makes attempts to "update" the Western genre by adding modern fighting techniques, futuristic weapons, and turns of phrase, but these ideas just seem desperate. The real Jonah Hex could have inspired a comic book movie as good as The Dark Knight, or at least a Western as good as Unforgiven. But the movie we get is a huge mess, and despite the state-of-the-art weaponry, a total misfire.

Warner Home Video released the DVD and Blu-Ray. DVD extras include additional scenes and optional subtitles. I guess they're just writing this one off. However, despite the universally negative response, they did manage to find a box cover blurb from that old reliable: Jeff Craig of "Sixty Second Preview."

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