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Old 06-24-2010, 03:05 PM
Jimmy Hayward's Jonah Hex

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:

Jonah Hex (2010)

"Jonah Hex" is a film that was riddled with bad publicity from the start. Early test screenings of the film were calling it a disaster, and even after some reshoots earlier this year, the bad word of mouth continued. It was then said that the film would not be screened for critics, which is usually the case with a film that will likely get a slew of negative reactions, but then, all of a sudden, at the last second, early critical reviews started rolling in, mostly confirming the rumors of a very troubled film. It was a strange choice for the studio to suddenly change their minds, especially since most of the rumors are true.

The film opens with Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) tied to a cross. He is being taunted by a man, Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), whose son was apparently killed by Hex. Quentin decides to take his revenge on him by setting his house on fire and killing his family, but he doesn't stop there. He brands Hex's face so that he'll always remember the man who took away everything he had.

Jonah immediately starts his journey of revenge only to find that Quentin was killed in a fire. Having no one left to take revenge on, he becomes a bounty hunter, collecting rewards for a living. Meanwhile, a train is ambushed by a gang of thieves, which just happens to include Quentin Turnbull. Back in Washington D.C., President Grant (Aidan Quinn) determines that Jonah Hex is the only person who can stop Turnbull from doing whatever it is he's planning to do to ruin the upcoming centennial celebration.

I'll get right to the point. The big problem with "Jonah Hex" is a complete lack of character development and motivation. We basically get a few characters thrown together in a situation that we never come to care about because we don't know anything about them. The most the writers, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, give us to connect Hex and Turnbull is a really quick, lazy backstory about how Hex had to kill Turnbull's son in order to stop a hospital from being burned down.

What's completely missing from this backstory is why on Earth a hospital needed to be burned down in the first place that would set this conflict in motion. That's merely one example though. There's also the completely pointless character of Lilah (Megan Fox), Hex's love interest who's only around to become the obligatory damsel in distress, but that doesn't even last for more than a minute as she's soon out and helping to take down the bad guys. It's not really necessary to go into how bad Fox's acting is, so we'll just leave it at that, except to say that we all know that's not what she was hired for.

The final action sequence is more than enough to give anyone a headache. It becomes a cluttered mess of images that seem stitched together to make an incoherent climax. It also becomes extremely hard to tell what's going on from one second to the next, or how things got from point A to point B as it tries to intercut the real fight with an imaginary fight that Hex is having in his mind.

One of the strangest things about "Jonah Hex" is that it runs only a very brief 73 minutes. Sometimes brevity can be a great strength to a film, making it very tight and concise, with very little fluff, but for this film, it makes you feel like there's a lot of the movie that's missing that would probably fill in the enormous gaps.

It's a little too brief to get bored exactly, but it's certainly long enough to get frustrated at the lack of the essential ingredients to get the audience engaged in its story. This could have been an interesting mix of westerns and the supernatural, but unfortunately it leaves you with the feeling that the rest of the movie is somewhere else. 2/4 stars.
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