Starring: Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Wes Bentley

Director: Jimmy Hayward

Writer(s): Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor, William Farmer, Jimmy Heyward

Cinematography: Mitchell Amundsen

Original Score: Marco Beltrami, Mastodon

Running Time: 81 Mins.

It’s no secret that Jonah Hex has suffered a, shall we say, turbulent road from (DC comic book) page-to-screen, changing between writers, star and directors (even after the shoot was complete on that count) to finally get a release stateside that left it with a hastily fumbled marketing strategy that suggested Warner’s knew they had a dud and simply wanted it swept under the DTV rug, odd given that it really isn’t all that bad when stacked against some of the other guff we have to sit through on a week by week basis (Grown Ups or The Box anyone?), and certainly in the pantheon of comic book to film adaptations it is far from the worst (Elektra? Ghost-Rider?). Which begs the question what DID go wrong along the way? I would like to answer that simply with the words “studio interference”.

As a character Hex is hardly an easy sell, it is a story that takes in, rebirth, the undead, hi-tech machinery in a period setting and that classic genre that fares not so well in these modern times, the western. Given that Warner’s also funded Wild Wild West you’s have thought they would veer clear of subject matter that has so many similarities, yet despite all it’s critics I would maintain (as with Jonah Hex to an extent) that it is a misunderstood effort and one that on its own merits deserves credit. Alas where Wild Wild West had a little substance Jonah Hex struggles somewhat. This can not be held against star Brolin or Director Hayward who gamely do their best with what is clearly a hacked down script, Brolin giving his all a the Clint Eastwood of the comic book world.

But where Brolin just about manages to make his mark everyone else is reduced to bit parts or cameos due to the harsh running time, 80 minutes is as brief a film as you will find all year with even Disney’s Tinkerbell film running longer, this is simply a sign of studio control in the edit suite hacking away until all you have is a harshly brief plot that needed so much more time to breathe. The saddest part of this is that there are glimpses of something really good to be found, just enough in fact to make the experience that exists more than just the mess it seems bound to be remembered as.

The action is writ on a big canvas yet without a proper edit they are usually cut down to a flurry of explosions and bloodless shoot-outs, the biggest fault given as a character (like the Punisher before him) Hex is a vicious man in a vicious time given a vicious birth, none of which are fully exploited and all the weaker for it. The Hi-tech weaponry features briefly (getting the pattern yet) but not enough to matter leaving what little there is seeming rather pointless, in fatc the only plot point used to its full effect is Hex’s ability to talk to the dead showing Hayward’s eye for film extends to more than what it is reduced to over-all.

What Malkovich, Fassbender, Fox, Shannon and Bentley thought they had signed up for surely gave them more to work with than on display here, Malkovich in particualr does not resort to over-acting rather he simply looks bored with Fassbender (tellingly) the only one looking to have fun in a film that needed more of it, with Bentley, Shannon and Arnett reduced to one or two scenes at most, Jonah Hex was surely a costly experiment and one that thanks to studio interference frustratingly displays only glimmers of what could have been.

VERDICT

Jonah Hex is not the unwatchable mess you will likely have read, alas it is not really enough of anything to be the enjoyable but dark spectacle it could have been. Sure, it will pass the time and there’s a glimpse of fun here and a shade of darkness there but ultimately it is a slave to its brutal (and unfair) edit.

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