Directed by: Jim Hayward
Written by: Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor (screenplay)
Starring: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, and Michael Fassbender
We must face it: the comic book adaptation is here to stay. You can bet your (kick-) ass that any character that’s ever been drawn to a page to tell a story along with words will eventually get its Hollywood due. So step right up for Jonah Hex, yet another unknown adaptation from an allegedly brilliant source material.
Hex begins compellingly different than most of its counterparts. We begin almost immediately at our title character’s (Josh Brolin) moment of dire straits. Rather than have that Utopian, dull first few scenes with bright colors, giggling children, and adoring spouse, we see arch nemesis (Jon Malkovich) light them all on fire. One thing that can be said of Jonah Hex, if not much else, is that it doesn’t bull-shit you with its pretentious morality. The script may try to hint at a soul within our weary anti-hero, but Brolin quells it rather quickly.
That being said, there’s not much of a story here. Thankfully, director Jim Hayward seems to know this, and keeps “his” film at about 90 minutes. It’s pretty much an action go-getter right from the beginning. Following the family murder sequence at the beginning, we are treated to a very beautifully shot sequence in which Hex attempts to cash in a bounty on four wanted criminals. The crisp blue sky blending with the desert and later the violence evokes nothing less than last year’s Public Enemies, which is never a bad thing.
Sadly, though the visual wonders may occasionally show back up, the movie is dumped into a pile of revenge cliches and poorly drawn out characters. You won’t care about any of them. What sympathy that is garnered from Hex by Brolin in the beginning will be spent by the time he’s given his 50th menacing stare or Eastwood-esque growl. Brolin can use his quietness to great effect (No Country for Old Men), but here you’ll be left wanting something more.
This is also the case with the rest of the cast. John Malkovich attempts, and fails, at capturing the spirit of a beleaguered ex-Confederate-general-turned-terrorist. From the southern drawl to the ridiculous Weapons of Mass Destruction plot-line, his character is the definition of campy. Malkovich, being the fine actor he is, manages to squeeze a little bit out of it, but not much.
As the token female, Megan Fox couldn’t be more disastrously miscast. Feminist prostitutes were done well in Sin City, but she is just dreadful. Thankfully, her one-note performance and character are only around for about 15 minutes total.
The best performance, if you could call it that, in the film has to go to rising star Michael Fassbender. As an overly-Irish right hand man, he takes a caricature and kind of makes it a character. This guy has an Oscar coming his way one of these days, mark my words.
Since this is the summer of 2010, of course the protagonist of this movie will be anti-government, and the government officials will be played by comedians (Will Arnett) and be appropriately foolish and incompetent because they are not menacing or evil. Though it offers a view of anti-government extremism, the supposed middle ground played by Brolin’s character dismisses any sort of government job with a disapproving glare. The very reason this comic was chosen for adaptation by a big studio was because someone probably sensed the trend, and wanted to continue cashing in.
Hayward has potential as a director. It’s very possible this is the bone Hollywood has thrown him; his Jaws to see if he can handle it. Unfortunately, by the time Arnett shows up, you begin to realize that this is a movie about actors cashing in; the men on the sound of their bankable voices, and the woman on her beauty and sass. As far as Westerns go it’s horrid, but as far as comic book adaptations go, it’s par for the course.