Movie News & Reviews

'Jonah Hex' not worth leaving town to see

As one more sign of my undying devotion to my readers, which is to say a moviegoing subset of people who're bored at work and are too wussy to risk pornography, I just caught a flick in a city I don't even live in.

"Here" is Vancouver, Wash., a place I find annoying because I have to constantly add "Washington" to the end to make clear I'm not in the much more Canadian Vancouver--something I feel compelled to clarify even to other Washingtonians. Then again, this is nothing new to anyone who's spent time out East, where if you leave the "state" part out of "Washington State" everyone will instantly assume you're from that place where fatcats roll logs while dodging runaway pork barrels.

Travel has its hazards, all right! You should probably just stay at home to safely dream about a world where places aren't named the same as other places. Unless someone puts Jonah Hex on, that is, in which case you should go elsewhere, anywhere, as fast as you can smash out the window of your neighbor's Lexus.

During the Civil War, Josh Brolin betrayed his murderous Confederate commander John Malkovich. In return, Malkovich killed his family. A few years later, Brolin's a disfigured bounty hunter whose near-death experience allows him to talk to the dead.

But Malkovich is back on the scene. It's the nation's centennial, and he intends to celebrate it by wrecking up the place with a stolen superweapon--unless Brolin can get to him first.

A summary of Brolin's "So I betrayed the South and then my wife and kid got all burnt up along with my face and I'm not too happy about that" backstory opens Jonah Hex, and it's about as easy to swallow as a lump of wet dough. Not that the crimes are unbelievable--nor his newfound corpse-whispering ways; in these days of vampires, werewolves, and tapdancing pharaohs from beyond the stars, who doesn't have eerie powers--but they're so rushed and compressed it's as if director Jimmy Hayward doesn't even want us to understand them, let alone care. It's almost like he just wants to get this damn thing over with.

And thank god because this movie is such a pile of trash it should have junkyard dogs patrolling the theater aisles.

I'm not a kneejerk Megan Fox-hater--she was perfect as a man-eating demon in Jennifer's Body--but her character in Jonah Hex is, and you may want to lay down some tarps because your mind is about to be blown, a whore who's willing to stop whoring for Brolin. Also, for some reason, she knows kung fu. Or krav maga, judging by how many dudes she disarms. Whatever. Like everything in this movie, she's just sort of there, an image clipped from a far better movie and pasted into the Western scrapbook that is Jonah Hex.

Just like the Gatling guns. And the train robbery. And the Civil War angle. Hell, it's basically The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly but with all its personality leeched away and Tuco replaced by a hot chick. Malkovich stands out, at least, but that's only because he looks like a cocker spaniel in a tall hat.

Derivative filmmaking is nothing new. For me, it's not that big a deal--artists steal from each other all the time. But Jonah Hex audaciously combines artistic theft with a dazzling lack of character depth, engaging drama, or interesting plotting.

Often, a movie like this will compensate by flashing a lot of blood and skin, but this can't even muster up any cheap thrills. Jonah Hex fails to register even as the modern B-movie it so desperately wants to be.

Grade: D