What Brolin does in the film can’t really be called a performance because he merely grimaces and mumbles through the whole movie beneath the increasingly distracting makeup.
Serious film buffs will often be heard saying “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is too short.” This is one of the few truisms in the world and Jonah Hex, at a run time of barely 80 minutes, felt like an eternity due to the meandering story and absolutely pathetic excuse for a screenplay. Occasionally a film can be salvaged from becoming absolute garbage by the performances of the lead actors, but that is not the case with Jonah Hex. Even though the two stars, Josh Brolin and John Malkovich, are wonderful actors they are unable to elevate this movie above the quality of a something that should have been double-billed with Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus and left to rot on late night basic cable for eternity.
Though its source material is yet another comic book (and never a popular one either), Jonah Hex is almost identical to Wild Wild West starring Will Smith and Kevin Kline, another forgettable summer movie that will hopefully soon fade from memory. Hex stumbles through an asinine plot that toys with supernatural elements that are only used to progress the story and are ultimately unimportant.
The character of Jonah Hex (Brolin) is a former Confederate soldier whose family is murdered by Quentin Turnball (Malkovich) because Hex killed Turnball’s son. So now Hex wants to kill Turnball. It’s a revenge story, get it? Hex is a really bad dude and you can tell right away because his face is all scarred which would be intimidating if it didn’t look so silly and artificial.
There is no sense summarizing the plot because it is so absurd and comical. Apparently, Hex is straddling the world of the living and the world of the dead so he can talk to dead people if he touches them. This only happens when he needs information from people so it is really more of a technical detail than a real plot point. Turnball hates the Union and the new country that has developed since the Civil War so he is going to destroy it with a giant weapon he built that is light years ahead of the technology available at the time. Again, almost a mirror image to Wild Wild West.
What Brolin does in the film can’t really be called a performance because he merely grimaces and mumbles through the whole movie beneath the increasingly distracting makeup. Malkovich gives Turnball little depth and doesn’t even attempt a Southern accent which almost makes you respect him; it’s as if he’s saying, “I’m John Malkovich and my almost-British cadence and inflection is good enough for any role.”
It should come as no surprise that the screenplay is incoherent since it was written by the team of Neveldine & Taylor who co-wrote Crank and Crank: High Voltage. Director Jimmy Hayward took quite the gamble on his first live action feature and after this will hopefully resign himself to more animated films like Horton Hears a Who! and leave real movies to real directors.
The filmmakers are even so blind as to waste a wonderful actor like Michael Fassbender as a sidekick to Malkovich who is sadistic and violent for no reason. Michael Shannon, one of the most intimidating and intense actors working today, is credited as appearing in the movie but if you blink you’ll miss him as some guy who runs a circus.
Jonah Hex is just another movie that will disappoint moviegoers in a summer overrun with disappointing movies. | Matthew F. Newlin