Jonah Hex What In Tarnation’s Going on?

Jonah Hex – 2010

Directed By Jimmy Hayward

Starring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Aidan Quinn, Wes Bentley, Tom Wopat, Will Arnett

Screenplay By Neveldine/Taylor

Around the second time Jonah Hex (stoically grimaced by Josh Brolin) is injured to the point where he should be dead, a series of events occur that leave me mystified.  Sure, he has a body riddled with bullet holes, but that is nothing compared to the Native American (Crow, I think) Witch Doctors powers to heal.  During this point, you get the typical scenes of recovery, convulsions, flashbacks and all.  There is, however, something extra, for the second time, a series of unexplained scenes on red dirt with a crow in the midst.  It is here that the tortured soul of Hex fights off the image of bad guy Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich).   Who wins?  Well, a crow crawls out of Hex’s mouth, if that is any indication.

Hex can help you with that skin tone issue.

Even more inexplicably, he jumps out of that seemingly critical state, rushes to the Telegraph station, and immediately gives the site that Turnbull and his gang are taking off from, even though he’s not been there himself.  How did he find that out?  Not sure.  Even though he can get information out of the dead, he did not consult any for that nugget.  All he saw at the last place were blue (well, actually red) prints of the super weapon boat that Turnbull was creating.  Again, how did he know where they were taking off from?  My guess is that the director, pressed to make the movie shorter, just figured that everyone could assume the good guy just had to get where the bad guy was going in time, and left it at that.

Jonah Hex is a movie filled with awkward cuts and inside references.  I am sure the movie would make more sense had I read any of the graphic novels.  Since I have not, I am left to wonder if performances would have been better received if they had been, pardon the pun, fleshed out.  What is left is a bunch of vague references, half-assed ideas and no sense of journey at all.

Still there are some fascinating aspects to this story which would have been quite interesting if played out in a more (super)natural setting.  Like I stated before, Jonah’s brush with death left him able to converse with the departed.  In a detective story, which it starts out being, this would be a fascinatingly good tool.  There are two good scenes that put this to affect.  The second, involving an uncredited appearance with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, shows another place where perhaps film cuts affected the overall character of the film.  Morgan is a good actor who gives a lot to the few scenes he is in.  I would like to have seen what was on the cutting room floor.

The rest of the cast is given little to do in abbreviated performances.  Megan Fox is supposed to be a tough whore, and she pulls it off.  Not much to do, but insist she won’t be abused or owned, but she plays each scene with relish.  I would not count her out as an actress yet.  She just needs a good director with some challenging material.  She did not get that here.

As a comparison, if I had never seen John Malkovich before this movie, I would have thought just about the same for him as I do Fox.  He is not bad, but each of his scenes seem abbreviated or as part of a flashback which does him nor the story any good.

It was nice to see Tom Wopat in his role as a sleazy Colonel named Slocum who runs a kind of death match ring (think Thunderdome), again, this is brief, and to little effect.  Wes Bentley, Will Arnett, Lance Reddick and Aidan Quinn are all wasted in their roles.  The movie is like a series of abbreviated scenes, rushed out to either meet a deadline or keep within a timeframe.

Which brings me to the Director, Jimmy Hayward.  Mostly an animated sequence director until now, he cut his teeth as Director for the movie Horton Hears a Who a few years ago.  That movie was alright, and I don’t remember it feeling as rushed as this one did.  At 81 minutes with credits, it makes one wonder why they did not either trash the film entirely or just wait for a sufficient script to cull from.  They could even have tacked on the animated short that was a part of the last Batman animated movie.  Anything would have helped.  From what I have heard, there were problems with the direction from the get go.  The writers of the film were slated to be its directors, originally.  That did not pan out, though, and they went through a few more before settling for Hayward.  This is the kind of thing you do if you want to move up in Hollywood: take the projects in development hell.  It would be proper to the character, I guess, that his movie comes across as bloody, cut short, and tortured.

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