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Still from Jonah Hex

1 out of 4 stars


Jonah Hex

  • Directed: by Jimmy Hayward
  • Written: by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
  • Starring: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox and Will Arnett
  • Classification: PG-13

Calling Jonah Hex a waste of time requires qualification, given the action flick weighs in at 82 minutes. And that includes a lengthy comic book prologue and two or three Maxim-style pictorials of star Megan Fox twitching her lips in come-hither poses.

The film is based on the popular DC comic franchise, the story of a Confederate Civil War veteran (Josh Brolin) who turns to bounty hunting to fill his angry hours after a Mean Evildoer rubs out his family.

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How despicable is Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich)? Meaner than Johnny Cash without pills - the kind of villain who would stick a branding iron in a man's face just to watch him fry.

That's what Turnbull does to Jonah Hex after murdering his family. Now Jonah roams the western range on a black steed, with rat-tat-tatting Gatling guns at his side.

The film is a another crudely insistent revenge fantasy - Harry Brown in a cowboy hat. Hex is treated monstrously and so turns into a monster. Filling whole towns full of lead. Shooting hecklers in bars. "Hey, what happened to your face?" a stranger asks. K-bam! k-bam! "Nothing, what happened to yours?" is Hex's deadpan response.

All of this - every shootout, blown up building-train-bad guy - is perfectly justified. Hex is just getting even, after all.

It makes sense that the DC comic book was made into a movie. Jonah Hex, the comic, was inspired by Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns from the 1960s. But whereas Leone's films are beautifully arranged landscape studies that provide a Cinemascope high, filmmaker Jimmy Hayward's ( Horton Hears a Who) work is all about fast-chopped editing. It even scans like a motion comic.

Now, the beauty of comics - the good ones anyway - is stopping to study the frame and breathe in the atmosphere. Can't do that here. Watching Jonah Hex, the movie, too often feels like we're speed reading cartoon panels.

Mind you, there isn't much here you'd want to slow down for. Co-star Fox, who wears a corset and a thin layer of applied sweat, still hasn't figured out the difference between posing and acting. And with his every scene, Malkovich's purring, owl-eyed villain reminds us we're watching a really bad movie.

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The best part of Jonah Hex is Josh Brolin on a horse. Especially when he's not saying anything, just moseying into or out of town. Too had he never moseys into a better movie.

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