Jamie Trueblood/Warner Bros. Picutres
Review in a Hurry: Not unlike Ghost Rider, Jonah Hex takes a gothic, moody, western-inspired comic book, and eliminates all traces of subtlety in the awkward transition to the big screen. Josh Brolin does the pizza-faced bounty hunter justice, but pretty much everyone else involved—including Megan Fox—lets him down.
The Bigger Picture: Jonah (Brolin) may be a former soldier for the Confederacy, but he was apparently the good kind of rebel: libertarian loner rather than racist. The same cannot be said for Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), an ex-plantation owner who murders Jonah's family in retaliation for the killing of his own son in a fair gunfight.
Near-death and branded on the face, Jonah Hex is revived by mystical Indians, and now has the ability to hold conversations with corpses, a skill that comes in handy when the feds request his help in finding the resurgent—and still rebellious—Turnbull.
Comic-book characters like Hex, Ghost Rider, and the Punisher would seem to be a more natural fit for Hollywood than your typical caped crusaders, given that the dark avenger archetype has long been a staple on the big screen. But it seems like every time one of them finally makes it, some moronic executive hears the phrase "comic" and decides to cartoon everything up.
The screenplay for this was written by the Crank team of Neveldine/Taylor, and while their ADD-fueled flicks are often awesome, their sensibility is exactly wrong for Jonah Hex. Little better is the choice of director: Horton Hears a Who helmer Jimmy Hayward. Again, good in his element; wrong for the material.
Not to mention: Jonah Hex is an ex-Confederate soldier turned bounty hunter, during the time of president Grant – who exactly thought that heavy-metal band Mastodon would be perfect to provide the score? Or that the evil forces Hex faces off against should be comprised primarily of terrorists who have stolen weapons of mass destruction?
This makes the second major summer action movie, after Prince of Persia, to inappropriately pattern a period adventure after the present-day war on terror. It's equally dumb and distracting here, but at least the run-time on Jonah Hex is only 83 minutes.
What's ultra-frustrating about Jonah Hex is that you can catch glimpses, every now and then, of the better movie this could have been.
Brolin takes the part seriously without being too humorless, and while Malkovich may be a tad miscast, he gives the role a level of realism that the movie doesn't merit. Less effective, unsurprisingly, is Megan Fox as Hex's favorite hooker, but it doesn't help matters that she appears to have been given a digital facelift in every close-up.
An animated sequence filling in bits of Hex's origin smacks of studio tampering, as does the frequent, redundant voice-over...give Brolin some kind of acting award for making even his pointless narration compelling.
One of the movie's producers is actor Matt LeBlanc, and it's no stretch to imagine his TV character Joey enjoying Jonah Hex for the explosions, rock guitar, and Fox cleavage. But if you're a fan of the source material, or even just of Brolin, you'll probably pine for what could have been.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Hex has machine guns mounted on his horse. Regardless of what you think of the movie overall, that's pretty awesome.