While Warner Bros. is hoping a corseted Megan Fox can lure teenage boys into seeing Jonah Hex, several critics suggest everyone was drunk and/or high while making the film, and say it "fails to establish a viable reason to exist."
Though it doesn't appear that director Jimmy Hayward paid much attention to the plot, the film is about Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin), a 19th-century bounty hunter/drifter looking for revenge against Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), a former Confederate officer who murdered Hex's family after he accidentally killed Turnbull's son. The incident left Hex with a gaping hole in his cheek that leaks whiskey when he drinks, and the ability to reanimate the dead for short periods of time. (The A.V. Club explains, "like Lee Pace in Pushing Daisies, but without the pies.") Years later, Turnbull has become an anti-government terrorist, and President Ulysses S. Grant (Aidan Quinn) asks Hex to stop him. Hex's prostitute girlfriend Lilah (Megan Fox) helps by frolicking about the Western town of Stunk Crick in a skimpy gown and thigh highs. (Later the setting changes to Washington, D.C., though there's no explanation of how the characters get there.)
Reviewers say Jonah Hex is "what happens when someone promises to deliver a releasable movie by a certain date, and then doesn't." It runs only 81 minutes, including lengthy opening credits, yet seems to drag on forever due to horrible editing and "witless dialogue." Josh Brolin is tolerable, but the rest of the cast, including Aidan Quinn, Will Arnett, and The Wire's Lance Reddick, are wasted. Megan Fox's character only shows up for 15 minute and she gives, "a performance so inert she seems carved out of wax." Oddly enough, The New York Times is one of the only papers that had something nice to say, noting, "There's also a horse and an excellent dog with which Mr. Brolin has terrific chemistry."
Below, the reviews:
Brolin discharges his comic-book duties manfully (if by manful you mean with a perpetual, squint, growl, scar-tissued sneer, and a tendency to peer out below the brim of his hat like a cowboy Princess Di). But the star is done in by the deathless mediocrity of the production, an assemblage of random camera shots, messy editing, redundant scenes, and witless dialogue as haphazardly stitched together as the flesh on Jonah Hex's face.
It must have been hard labor for Josh Brolin to get in the makeup chair for hours to capture the disfigured look of DC Comics anti-hero Jonah Hex. Due respect to the talented Brolin, it's much harder to sit in a theater and watch this crapfest. Director Jimmy Hayward fails to establish a viable reason for this movie to exist.
"...Every once in a while, a film limps into theaters so stitched together, it's a wonder it doesn't rip apart in the projector. Jonah Hex is such a film....
Rumors of trouble dogged Jonah Hex's production from the time its original directors, the Crank writing-directing team of Neveldine & Taylor, abandoned the project, up to when director Jimmy Hayward-an animation vet making his live-action debut-conducted last-minute reshoots with another director's help. Trouble happens, of course, but the 81 minutes (including credits) of Jonah Hex footage that made it to the screen look like something assembled under a tight deadline, and possibly under the influence. One flashback makes three appearances. A fight scene with no dreamlike elements, apart from a sky tinted red in post-production, repeatedly appears as a dream sequence. A chunk of Hex's origin is told by way of animation for no apparent reason. Narration comes and goes. Whole elements, like Hex's supernatural powers and Megan Fox's prostitute-in-distress, could disappear without anyone noticing. And that's without even mentioning the Native American village that shows up at random. Or the CGI crows. Or the acid-spitting snake-man. (One element that occasionally gives the illusion of coherence: a neat spaghetti-metal score. But even that was cobbled together from separate work by Marco Beltrami and Mastodon.) Jonah Hex is what happens when someone promises to deliver a releasable movie by a certain date, and then doesn't.
The opening frame of Jonah Hex should say: "Caution: Made expressly for the male teen demographic. Not suitable for anyone of any age who prefers movies with coherence, an original plot or characters they give a hoot about."
Jonah drifts, dabbles in bounty hunting and sidles up to Lilah, a comely prostitute played by Megan Fox in a performance so inert she seems carved out of wax.
Hayward and screenwriters Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor toss in anything they think might look cool (modern weaponry, supernatural scares), and throw out anything that gets in the way (plot, characterization, logic). And though Brolin is always watchable, all the actors appear well aware that they're slumming. If all you want is a bullets-and-bombs B-movie, you'll get your money's worth: Somehow, Hayward makes 82 minutes feel like hours.
Clocking in at a barely there 81 minutes (and that includes the extensive credits sequence), the pared-down end product plays like a generous highlights reel with little else remaining to thread together those explosive, CG-riddled action sequences.
Originally slated for an early August bow, the Warner Bros. release was bumped up to serve as young male-skewing counterprogramming to Toy Story 3, but despite some entertaining bits and pieces, the overall picture unlikely will live up to fanboy Hex-pectations.
Malkovich, who does malevolence so well, is strangely flat as the villain. All would be lost without his No. 2, the devilish Michael Fassbender as a tattooed crazy Brit named Burke. He takes care of most of the hand-to-hand combat with Jonah and brings the fire needed to fuel the bad guys and inflame his adversaries.
Though it has bad word of mouth, Jonah Hex is generally better, sprier and more diverting than most of the action flicks now playing, The A-Team included. The director of Hex Jimmy Hayward, whose first feature was the animated children's movie Horton Hears a Who!, isn't Sergio Leone, but he maintains a lightness of touch throughout, a welcome change from the lugubriousness that tends to weigh down so many big-screen adaptations of comic books. The cast is weird and slightly confusing - Aidan Quinn, Will Arnett and a very good Michael Fassbender - if solid. As the requisite hooker, Megan Fox has about 15 minutes of screen time, but she fills out the Victorian hooker clothes that make the most of her swelling, perspiring bosom. There's also a horse and an excellent dog with which Mr. Brolin has terrific chemistry.
Now "the very fate of our nation rests with Jonah Hex.'' He has supernatural powers (he talks to the dead; thanks, Crow Indians!) and lies in bed with Megan Fox, who's been cast and clothed, so imaginatively, as a wild-west prostitute. She damsels too easily. In her close-ups, Fox appears to be staring out from a music box or a department store window. If she won't be returning to Transformers and she's looking for a new recycled franchise, might I suggest "Mannequin?''
The movie's desperate, mangled assembly does produce an unexpected side effect. The general incoherence is almost druggy (one of the production companies is Weed Pictures). From Warner Bros.' standpoint, this seems apt. If the studio thinks this is its next Batman,' it might be high.
Here's how you know Josh Brolin has become a movie star: Jonah Hex may not be much with him, but without him? Perish the thought. Perish it, throw an ax in its heart, then burn it to a crisp.
Brolin is not exactly being challenged here, but he is a very droll fellow, and without his taciturn delivery of some rudimentary zingers, typically delivered after throwing an ax into someone's heart, you'd be stuck wondering what's up with John Malkovich's amusing attempt at a Southern dialect. Or wondering how this short (about 80 minutes minus credits), sour and absurdly violent picture got by with a PG-13 rating. Did the ratings board members all have jury duty the day of the screening?
The presence of Lilah in the film is easily explained: She is played by Megan Fox. If you want a woman in an old western town, there are only three occupations open to her, hooking, schoolmarming, and anyone called Ma.
After Hex saves the day, he's invited into the Oval Office, thanked, and then presented with a big badge. What is this badge? The president tells Hex: "America needs a sheriff." This provided the audience with a big laugh, which sounded like it might have been botched up for awhile.
"Jonah Hex" opens today nationwide.