Awfully Good: Jonah Hex

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

As disappointing as THE LONE RANGER apparently is, let’s keep things in perspective…

Jonah Hex (2010)

Director: Jimmy Hayward
Stars: Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, John Malkovich

Some guy in desperate need of Neosporin gets all pissy after his family is murdered.

JONAH HEX is like a combination of WILD WILD WEST and GHOST RIDER, and manages to be worse than both of those terrible, terrible movies. While it does border on “unmitigated disaster,” as a film, HEX is more of a depressing letdown. There are countless cool opportunities that come with a badass Civil War-era gunslinger… and this movie uses exactly none of them.

It would take years of hard work, but Megan Fox eventually learned how to count to two.

The original JONAH HEX script was penned by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the cinematic crazymen responsible for CRANK and CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE. (I have not read their version of the screenplay, but it probably featured the title character setting his horse on fire and jumping over as a Megadeth choir sang.) After Josh Brolin was brought on as Hex, however, the star and directors clashed over the usual “creative differences” and Neveldine/Taylor left, taking with them any semblance of hope and sanity the project would ever have. Warner Bros. then made the natural decision to turn their film about a horrifically scarred bounty hunter out for vengeance in to a more family friendly PG-13 movie—and proceeded to hire the director of HORTON HEARS A WHO, Jimmy Hayward. Nothing against Hayward, who worked for years as a Pixar animator, but it’s pretty clear that the dude was not ready for a big live-action, comic book movie yet. And the studio thought so too. After seeing the first cut, they rewrote JONAH HEX with an entirely different plot, brought the entire cast back and hired I AM LEGEND director Francis Lawrence to reshoot a huge chunk of the film. (Sound familiar?)

Their town may have been overrun with crime, but under the protection of Sheriff Chunk, the people always had plenty of Baby Ruths.

The results speak for themselves. Hex is a cool character and a comic book western would be a potent genre to play with, yet the film sucks all the fun out of the concept. (Neveldine/Taylor still have a writing credit, but I refuse to believe the people responsible for electrifying Jason Statham wrote such a dull film.) The title character should be a bitter anti-hero AND a world-class gunfighter. However, Brolin’s Hex is such one-note sourpuss he makes Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight look happy and carefree. And he might be a solid sharpshooter, but you wouldn’t know it since the film version opts to use all kinds of stupid gadget-weapons, like a horse-mounted Gatling gun and a crossbow that fires sticks of dynamite. (I’m pretty sure John Malkovich even wields a cannon that shoots Dragonballs.)

“Malkovich? Malkovich, Malkovich!”

There are some seeds of cool ideas occasionally, but nothing is executed well and the filmmaking is amateurish at best and nonsensical at worst. For example, the powers-that-be didn’t think 30 years of comics were enough material for one movie, so they added in a completely unnecessary supernatural element to the Jonah Hex’s story. After being resurrected by Native Americans, Hex can now bring the dead back to life so he can get information by…threatening to kill them again. (There’s also a random unexplained Snake Man and at one point Josh Brolin throws up a live crow. Just thought you should know.) And sadly, the film does feel like a last-minute salvage job. Characters that should be important get no screentime and vice versa. What little plot there is is rushed at maximum speed. And most of the time you can tell what was original and what was reshot, mainly because they feel like two different movies.

The vet that neutered Garfield was a little creepy.

And there’s no better instance of that than the ending, which might be the most absurd idea ever presented in a studio movie. You see, in this world, before you die you get to “play out” your unfinished business via dream sequence. So in the final showdown, as Washington D.C. is being destroyed and Megan Fox is duking it out with nameless henchmen and Josh Brolin is fighting John Malkovich—you’re also treated to a concurrent “imaginary fight” with Brolin and Malkovich in some weird mud field. (There’s also a flashback to Hex’s family being murdered, making it four simultaneous sequences going on, none of which are interesting.) So when the hero inevitably defeats the man that killed his wife and son, you get to watch both the physical and the spiritual victory! I know; it makes no sense. My guess is they needed to kill time and shoehorned in the film’s original ending fight and made up the “unfinished business” crap to mildly explain it.

For the rest of his life, Jonah never fully understood why Lieutenant Grass began clapping his hands and squawking like a chicken.

The only thing remotely interesting about this movie is the cast, mainly because it’s weirdly awesome—even if most of the supporting actors have tiny, thankless parts due to the reshoots:
Josh Brolin seems bored, embarrassed and perplexed as to why he’s in this. Not to mention the facial prosthetic makes him mumbly and hard to understand.
Megan Fox plays the hooker with a heart of gold as an incredibly empowered woman… except when she’s around Jonah Hex and immediately turns in to his sex slave.

John Malkovich phones in his role as the villain to an impressive degree. He doesn’t even attempt a Southern accent.
Michael Fassbender plays Malkovich’s psychopathic Irish sidekick and, with his gleefully manic performance, is the only actor who knows what movie he’s in.
Will Arnett plays a completely dramatic part and I don’t like it.
Wes Bentley. The poor guy went from AMERICAN BEAUTY to GHOST RIDER and this.
Michael Shannon has literally a two-second screaming cameo as a fight referee (and he’s still credited over poor Wes Bentley).
Jeffrey Dean Morgan is in the movie as much as everyone else but is completely uncredited, probably out of shame.
Aidan Quinn plays President Grant, who in the end offers Jonah Hex a job as “Sheriff of the United States” to which Hex appropriately responds, “Um, dude, that’s not a real thing.”

“I do hang out with Mike Tyson. Why do you ask?”

At least JONAH HEX is mercifully short. But at barely 70 minutes, it feels almost pointless. It’s probably the only movie that features a giant nation-destroying death machine and still feels like nothing happens.

A bit dramatic, but, yeah, pretty much.

Megan Fox plays coy and Josh Brolin throws up a crow in the best line delivery ever.

Some of the more ridiculous parts, including a horse Gatling gun, dynamite crossbow, Michael Fassbender exploding punch and the movie’s completely nonsensical ending.

This is as good as it gets.

At least the score by Mastodon is pretty good. Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Someone asks what happened to Jonah Hex’s face
  • There’s a flashback
  • Someone hits Megan Fox
  • Jonah Hex interacts with animals
  • The movie is so dark you can’t see what’s going on

Double shot if:

  • Jonah Hex has a drinking problem

Thanks to Alex and Micah for suggesting this week’s movie!

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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