My motto is “I watch bad movies so you don’t have to” and rarely has that ever been as true as it was when I watched, nay, endured “Jonah Hex.” Clocking in at a brief 80 minutes—73 without the end credits—“Jonah Hex” isn’t just painfully short, it’s also painful to watch for about 70 of those 73 minutes. The story of a supernatural bounty hunter set on revenge against the man who killed his family is as disfigured as its main character’s face.
Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) wasn’t always the pizza-faced avenger we meet in the movie. Once he was a war hero, a confederate soldier whose refusal to obey a direct order from his commander Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich, grabbing a paycheque) led to the death of Turnbull’s son. Drummed out of the military he settles down with his wife and son; settles down that is, until Turnbull tracks him down, makes him watch his family be killed and scars his face with a branding iron. Left for dead he survives, but just barely. He has one foot in the human world, one foot on “the other side.” He can “talk” to the dead, which is convenient because most everyone around him winds up six feet under. His only companions are his horse, his dog and a courtesan named Lilah (Megan Fox) who clearly does not judge Jonah’s book by its cover. Hex gets his chance at revenge when he is hired by the government to stop Turnball from using his “super weapon” to destabilize the government and achieve what the civil war couldn’t—succession.
“Jonah Hex” is silly, but so are a lot of movies based on comic books. Its sins are way worse than a dose of silliness. It’s not just poorly made, it’s inept, with little idea of how to tell the story and even less of an idea of how to stage a cool action scene. There are odd flashes here and there—a surreal resurrection sequence must be seen to be believed and Jonah does have some cool moves—but by and large it looks cheap and feels incomplete, as though the cutting room floor is littered with the connective tissue that would have fleshed out the story to something that made sense. The production company responsible for this mess is called Weed Road so perhaps it shouldn’t be a shock the story has a drug induced, hallucinatory feel.
Josh Brolin brings his real-life swagger to the role and has fun with some of the tongue-in-what’s-left-of-his-cheek lines, but because of the heavy make-up he’s wearing it is often hard to understand what he is saying.
Former It-Girl Megan Fox brings a tight corset, wasp waist and little else to her brief role and others, like Will Arnett and Wes Bentley, are given even less to do.
The best thing about “Jonah Hex” is that at 73 minutes, it isn’t longer.