For a supernatural western about a hardened bounty hunter who comes back from the dead to take revenge on the man that murdered his family, everything about Jonah Hex is rather restrained. The violence is subdued, the suspense barely registers, the suggestiveness is nearly non-existent and the runtime is a mere 80 minutes. What likely started as an R-rated project has lost most of its energy, leaving a truncated action flick that skirts some interesting ideas but doesn’t have the fortitude to let loose any real thrills. Considering the screenplay comes from Neveldine and Taylor, the duo that knew no boundaries in the Crank films, one has to wonder if all the enthusiastic insanity never existed in the first place, or if it was left on the cutting room floor.
A soldier in the Confederate army, Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) chooses honor over orders and suffers dearly for it when his family is murdered and his face burned by malicious commanding officer Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich). Swearing revenge, Hex devotes himself to hunting down his nemesis, but turns to bounty hunting upon learning of Turnbull’s death. When President Grant uncovers a plot to reconstruct a devastating super-weapon, and Quentin Turnbull appears behind the scheme, Jonah Hex is recruited to locate the madman and put a stop to his maniacal reign of terror.
Everything in Jonah Hex is so over-the-top and unbelievable, it’s a shame that so many supernatural elements had to be incorporated into the plot. Regardless of faithfulness to the original source material, enough pieces have changed that somehow the half-undead state of Jonah’s existence could have been pushed from the forefront. Communicating with the dead, being followed by crows and painlessly taking dozens of bullets are all ideas that stretch the boundaries of believability that didn’t need an explanation by occult means.
Most of the action has a humorous flair and every character flourishes showdowns with hammy one-liners, further removing Hex from seriousness. Interestingly, toward the conclusion, the disfigured man offs a sentry and comments that he’s all out of wisecracks, acknowledging the scripts rampant overuse – he’s self-aware of his own problematic dialogue. In addition, the adoption of a personal, dual mini-Gatling gun (among other high-tech weaponry), suicide bombers, an out of place, acid-spewing snakeman, and a henchman heavily adorned with tattoos, all seem oddly anachronistic and largely unnecessary.
Hex’s practical makeup effects would deserve applause simply for the refusal to employ a CG face, but the design appears so restrictive at times, it interferes with the delivery of lines. Megan Fox is only present for eye candy, and considering the fact that many of her most revealing scenes were cut altogether, her role becomes rather pointless. Will Arnett tries desperately to be straight-faced, but his roots in comedy are inescapable, and Malkovich reprises his classic villain character, with costume and makeup failing to create an original entity. But perhaps the greatest hindrance to the entertainment of Jonah Hex is the PG-13 rating, and this is only because most of the themes and many of the scenes were clearly meant to be more mature. The violence, sexuality and language are very noticeably repressed, toned down, edited out or simply implied. It should have either been made with PG-13 in mind, or just embraced a harsher rating from the start. At less than an hour and a half, we’re wondering where the best parts of the film went.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)