Friday, June 25, 2010

"Jonah Hex" Gets Ugly Fast

I had some time to kill today and decided to take in Jonah Hex, the newest film with Josh Brolin. I felt like this film didn't deserve to be written off for several reasons. It's headed by two strong lead actors: Brolin and John Malkovich. It's a movie based off a comic book by DC comics. More often than not, this leads to relatively good reviews and big box office success. It wasn't a surprise to me that these two actors (and we shouldn't forget Megan Fox) all wanted a comic book franchise of their own so they could wallpaper their houses in money. The movie is also backed by "Legendary Pictures," a young production company joined with "Warner Brothers" that has an impressive track record that started with Batman Begins and includes such titles and Where the Wild Things Are and The Hangover. With five previous comic adaptations under their belt, superhero fans should be buying tickets with high hopes.
Unfortunately, Hex feels less like an adaptation of a comic book than a teenage boy's retelling of one. Despite a highly stylized introduction, the movie basically assumes that it's target audience already knows what they need to know. It's a comic book film that skips the origin story, only not intentionally. We are told how Hex's face became scarred, and it hints at his motivations. However the ten minutes of exposition are light in detail, and heavy in an overly-gruff voice over by Brolin. From that minute on, the loud explosions and gunshots come so thick and fast that you barely have time to take the cotton out of your ears before the next wave begins.
Director Jimmy Hayward, whose first film Horton Hears a Who was a relative success, seems to be trying to do to the Western genre what Stephenie Meyer did to vampires with her Twilight books. They both might make some fans out of America's youth, but to the rest of the viewing audience the effort seems amateur and short sighted. The film makes a few concerted efforts to capture life in the wild-west including a bell-tower shootout and wide, scenic shots but it's just more interested in the guns. The editing is lightning fast. Combined with a lot of night scenes and low-budget lighting, eventually you just have to give up and listen to the endless explosions.
What attracted Brolin and Malkovich to the script remains a mystery to me. I suspect that Malkovich wanted to re-create the attention that Heath Ledger got for his Joker in The Dark Knight by playing Hex's nemesis. But due to shoddy script writing and a half-effort by Malkovich, he falls short. As for Brolin, he spends most of the film looking mad and growling his words from the left side of his mouth. A confusing plot hole is his determination to get revenge for the murder of his beloved family, while he spends the movie sleeping with Megan Fox's saucy prostitute Tallulah Black, who loves(?) Hex. Fox spends her screen time making sexy faces and moaning her lines like she just came out from under anesthesia.
Hex is more like watching a freak carnival sideshow than an actual "film." There are explosions, sexy women, mutants and men with scary scars. Hex can talk to the dead, which gives cool opportunities for special effects which are largely wasted. It should also go mentioned that Brolin can look good riding a horse. However, the story and setting runs away from being a western just as fast as it's style does. The location jumps all over the U.S map. Characters are introduced to recite five lines to further the story and are never heard from again. Another thing the film gets wrong from it's "Legendary Films" predecessors is that while they made the formula of "gritty, realistic" superhero movies famous, the plot is so bogus and unbelievable it feels like a re-boot of Will Smith's Wild Wild West. If that's a good thing, maybe this film is for you. Although let me warn you that Brolin has none of Smith's charm in this film and the script is mirthless. If lots of pyrotechnics and loud gunfire is a form of therapy for you, by all means I would recommend this film. However if you prefer story line, or just have high blood pressure, stay away from this one.

Consensus: Redbox it for your son's 13th birthday, he'll have a blast.

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