Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jonah Hex

"Jonah Bloody Hex...Ah'd Recognize that Half-Cooked Pie-Hole Anywhere."

The title of this post says it all: "Jonah Hex," the movie, is "half-cooked" as in half-baked and a "pie-hole" as in an empty void.

Sad, too.  "Jonah Hex" could have been a lot of savage fun if it were truer to the source—the DC comic book, the last semi-regular western title the publisher produces.

Jonah Hex was a confederate officer, who would not take part in a raid that would only produce civilian casualties, and so, he was the ultimate outlaw, trusted by neither the North or the South, and a bounty hunter, with a particularly nasty streak (not counting the melted-flesh scar adorning his right cheek*).

Hex was in a "funny book," although, he had no "powers and abilities far below those of mortal men," except a deadly accuracy with all things kill-making.  Seems that's not good enough for a four-color movie adaption these days, because the character now has a way to commune in the darker places of the spirit-world, awakening the dead with a touch in order to obtain information.  This hooey is a result of being saved from death by the mumbo-jumbo of the Crow Natives, who salved his wounds (but knew nothing from plastic surgery) and snatched his soul back from the after-life.**  Of course, the wounds were CAUSED by Natives in the comics, but consistency is the hob-goblin of little minds, and the pea-brains who made this one decided to air on the side of political correctness—which "Jonah Hex" never was and never should be.

The best of the "Hex" stories (not counting the ones where he was flung into a post-apocalyptic future, as a "Mad Max"-type) were written by a scribe with with his own twisted streak, Michael Fleischer (although don't call him "crazy" because Harlan Ellison implied it in an interview, and Fleischer sued...and lost).  The last issue he wrote had Hex meeting his end, and then being stuffed and mounted for display and the amusement of anyone who'd fork over two-bits.

He should contact his lawyers, because he might have better luck this time; this one's a PG-13 fiasco that's all-hat and no cattle, that tries to be gritty-tough, but doesn't have the powder to show a kill-shot.  A lot of people get killed, roasted, bludgeoned and chopped, but all discretely off-screen, even while its trying to be as nasty as can be, like a bully that talks tough but runs away from a fight.  And anyone who thinks "The A-Team" was poorly directed (guilty) will be amazed at the cluelessness displayed here by director Jimmy Hayward,*** former animator for Pixar and co-director of the very fine "Horton Hears a Who!"****

It's all shot in a snatch-and-grab style, awkwardly staged, with no time to linger over period detail, then settles into a Leone-like formality (with picturesquely ugly extras) that's to a spaghetti western what Chef Boy-Ar-Dee's "SpaghettiO's" is to fine Italian cuisine.  The Main Title fills in some animated back-story (fine), but then the thing hits the dirt like Hoss' played-out horse, with a tricked up story about a Doomsday Weapon about to be lobbed on Washington by Hex's former commander (who happened to murder his family to boot).  At about the half-way point, it looks like someone had seen "Sherlock Holmes"***** and tried to emulate the steam-punkish style, but—(never thought I'd say this!)—didn't have a clue how to match the precision of Guy Ritchie.

The movie's look changes dramatically whenever Megan Fox is on-screen, but that's not to the good.  Instead of the gritty telephoto look of the rest of the film, she looks like someone spent some precise time lighting her, as she's bathed in golden light with roseate high-lights in her hair—it's the reverse equivalent of smearing vaseline on the lens to hide an actresses' wrinkles—it stands apart from the rest of the film almost to a laughable degree—and for no good reason other than it makes her look damned good.  You can't shine gelled baby-spots on her performance, though, which, unencumbered of any modern girly-girl archness (at which she can be quite smart), is delivered in a flat, lazy drawl (sometimes, as she's inconsistent) and suggested to me that she might be this generation's Raquel Welch...or Jill St. John ("Ya look great, honey, just don't speak, okay?  You, too, Keanu").

It's a mess.  The script's bad (by the makers of the "Crank" movies—seems like a "natural" choice to me!), and only matched by the slip-shod film-making—whoever did it, and it could be a bean-counter at Warner for all I know.  The best parts are in the trailer, as the movie's only 85 minutes long (with credits), you're only missing 83 minutes of garbage.

I sat, during the credits, with my own Hex-like sneer on my face, contemplating just how badly this thing was screwed up, when the name of one of the Executive Producers showed up: Akiva Goldsman.  Of course!  The man who wrote the bad "Batman" scripts, who wrote "Lost In Space," "I Am Legend," "Practical Magic," "I, Robot," won an Oscar for "A Beautiful Mind ("schizophrenia can be fun, kids!!"), and adapted both "The DaVinci Code" and "Angels and Demons," and whose only talent seems to be the ability to "crack" a script by taking anything edgy or complicated and dumbing it down to the level of a kindergartner.  If he were a chef, his specialty would be a liquid, runny oatmeal.  His name has so symbolized terrible work that in my most churlish moments (usually after seeing one of "his" movies) I can only refer to him as "Hackiva."  The man should be barred from having control over anything of literary merit, and  consigned to merely working on "Chipmunk" sequels.  He's been pegged to direct the remake of (appropriately) "The Toxic Avenger."  One hopes that he's a better director than he is a writer/producer, and may prove to be with the bar set so low.  I doubt it.  It's tough to avoid the "Hackiva" hex.

"Jonah Hex" is a Waste of Time.

* Among the many flaws of the movie, the prosthetic creating this effect looks a bit plastic—you don't see it on the poster, of course, in another instance of white-washing the movie—but it does have one funny outcome:  Whenever Jonah goes to a bar, he always has to order a double because half of it goes through the open wound in his cheek.

** And, just to pile on the atmospherics, he also seems to be followed around by flocks of crow familiars, which must make it hard to sneak up on people, although he does from time to time. 

*** Okay, to be fair to Hayward—"Horton" IS a great movie and certainly the best of the recent big screen Seuss adaptations—was replaced by Warner execs by Francis Lawrence ("Constantine," "I Am Legend") during re-shoots, so that may account for the film's inconsistent tone and look. 

**** I first suspected hopelessness when the hilarious Will Arnett showed up...in a completely straight-laced role as a government functionary.  What a waste!

***** Both "Jonah" and "Sherlock" are Warner Brothers movies, so, that's a distinct possibility.


Simon said...

But Michael Fassbender kicked ass, yes?

Yojimbo_5 said...

That was his job description, yes.

I dunno, Si'. This one is such a hash, I don't think Fassbender...who was "fine" can be an excuse to see it. Maybe when you do a Fessbender retrospective, but GAWD...this thing SUCKS (in the palaver of you youngsters).

Mike Lippert said...

I want to see this just to see how it compares to The A-Team.

Yojimbo_5 said...

Trust me on this, Mike...you don't. Save your money and rent it. Really. Truly. Madly. Deeply.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I have to say I am enjoying reading the reviews of this, up to last week I'd never heard of it and now everyone's throwing in their two cents on the horror. Poor Josh Brolin.