Usually, I would give a film a star rating above the review to indicate how much I liked or didn’t like a movie. For “Jonah Hex,” it deserves no rating.
Josh Brolin (“No Country for Old Men,” “W.”) is an actor who can pull the gritty Western look off quite well. He is a high caliber actor. It baffles me that he is in this treacherous film. It’s also surprising to see John Malkovich (“Burn After Reading”), Michael Shannon (“Revolutionary Road”), Michael Fassbender (“Inglourious Basterds”) and Will Arnett (TV’s “Arrested Development”) in such a train wreck.
In the opening scene, Jonah Hex’s family is murdered right in front of him. His face is branded and he is left hanging on a cross for several days. When Indians find him, he is barely alive.
He tells the audience, “I am not immortal, nor am I dead.”
Well, if you’re neither of those, then what the hell are you?
During his revival on the cross, he discovers he has developed a special power. He can talk to the dead.
No, it’s not some ghost partner who follows him around. His power works when he touches the dead person. If he wants answers, he has the power to burn their skin until he gets them. If they give him the answers, he heals their wounds by sprinkling dirt on them.
“Dirt loves dead. Dead loves dirt.”
He also gets some assistance from his gun slinging, prostitute friend Lilah (Megan Fox), who seems to have a crush on him.
Jonah has warrants out for his arrest. He is given a mission by the U.S. military that will result in his freedom. He must also seek vengeance on the men who murdered his family and left him for dead.
When Jonah finds out Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich) is still alive, he sets his eyes on finding him and actually killing him this time.
Turnbull has a little scheme he’s devising for the Fourth of July. He plans to use a weapon called The Nation Killer to destroy America. This weapon is a multiple firing cannon. It shoots about five balls before the sixth one (a golden ball) is fired, which causes all the other balls to explode and destroy the town or city. Jonah’s mission is to stop him before it’s too late.
The Western genre has been dead for quite some time. Every now and then, a film will pop up that gives the audience hope that the genre will be revived. James Mangold’s “3:10 to Yuma” remake is a perfect example. Then, a film such as “Jonah Hex” comes along and destroys the audience’s hope.
This movie is only 81 minutes long. If you take away about eight minutes or so of credits, you only get about 73 minutes worth of film. This doesn’t give the viewer time to understand or care for anything in this movie.
Some films can pull off a short running time effectively. “Zombieland” is a good example (88 minutes). “Jonah Hex” is not.
Brolin walks around with a hole in his mouth from the brand he received. In one scene, we are shown that he has trouble containing his liquids. In the mouth and out the hole it goes, spilling all over his shirt. However, we only see this once. Thankfully, it’s not a running gag.
There are also crows following him everywhere he goes. During one scene where he is close to dying (remember not immortal, not dead) from gunshot wounds, Indians come and save him. He is revived again and this time, a crow flies right out of his mouth.
Is it a symbol for a new life? Who knows? It might be, but crows are such hideous birds to use for something positive. Why not use a parakeet or a swallow? Or even a toucan? A positive bird should symbolize a positive thing. Even if “Jonah Hex” has a dark and grim tone, the filmmakers should think positive birds for positive things.
Of course, if director Jimmy Hayward (“Horton Hears a Who!”) and writers Neveldine/Taylor (the “Crank” films) actually spent time looking over the film, they’d realize there is no need for the CGI bird to spew out of Brolin’s mouth. The audience can tell he’s revived when he wakes up, gasping for air.
Then there’s Fox, who pulls off the most wretched Southern drawl in a Western.
She belongs alongside Taylor Swift from “Valentine’s Day.” Both roles make people wonder what was going through the filmmakers’ minds with such a bad casting decision.
The quick cut, PG-13 action scenes are so cheesy, so heavily stylized, and so short that the viewer doesn’t get much of a chance to endure any of it. Also, due to the film being PG-13, the grim tone of “Jonah Hex” is lost when an action scene occurs because of how non-violent they are.
I feel I’ve covered enough to explain how much I loathe this movie. It’s an insult to Westerns. It’s an insult to the Action genre. It’s an insult to cinema in general.
I don’t know what Brolin was thinking when signing up for such an awful screenplay. He can do better and has done better. We’re only in the month of June. If there is a film worse than “Jonah Hex” released later this year, I will be very surprised.
Opens June 18 at Cinemark 14 in Chico, Paradise Cinema 7 in Paradise, and Feather River Cinemas in Oroville.
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