Jonah Hex (2010)

(On DVD, October 2010) “Not as terrible as rumoured” isn’t much of a positive review, but given how Jonah Hex was savaged upon release as one of the worst big-budget release of 2010 (with rumours of a very troubled production), it’s almost a relief to watch the film and notice a few worthwhile things.  Much of those, alas, are conceptual rather than actual: It’s a movie that sounds a lot better than it plays largely because it ineptly executes its most interesting ideas.  Part of the problem is the script’s middle-of-the-road commitment to the Hex comic book mythology’s most outlandish aspects: The resulting film feels as if it never commits to full-blown fantastical concepts, and its occasional anachronism feel like weak sauce in today’s steampunk-knowledgeable media universe.  It’s not often that Wild Wild West is held up as an example to follow, but it –at least- didn’t forget to have some fun in introducing anachronistic concepts in a Western setting.  Worse yet is Jonah Hex’s execution of what it chooses to embrace: Thanks to the scattered direction, It’s not rare to figure out after the fact what the film was trying to do, and think that there was a far more coherent way to achieve it.  It’s violent without being gory, and yet displeasingly so in a film that otherwise seems suited for an escapist romp.  As such, Jonah Hex limps along from one semi-interesting scene to another, and it ends (after a mere 80 minutes) with an underwhelming, overly-familiar whimper.  So, what are its good points?  While Megan Fox’s character is useless and John Malkovich is wasted as the antagonist, Josh Brolin does a fine tortured Hex.  There are occasional flourishes of direction in, say, resorting to comic-book panels to show what would have been unbearable to watch as live action, and there is some interesting twisted western imagery in the mix.  But even with those advantages, Jonah Hex goes in the “almost” category: almost interesting, almost good and almost worth watching.

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