6 September 2010

The Horse With No Name- JONAH HEX Review

Here's what plot remains in the studio hack-job that is Jonah Hex- the eponymous Hex is a Confederate soldier turned bounty hunter who can commune with the dead after being left for dead himself by his radicalised comrades. Then the man who killed his wife and child, Quentin Turnbull, re-announces himself after faking his demise, on the eve of a plot to destroy the United States of America, and he sets out for revenge.

You all surely know how big a deal it is when Clint Eastwood directs a Western. He was the iconic Man With No Name in the Dollars trilogy, and behind the camera, he's been responsible for greats like High Plains Drifter and Unforgiven. In Jonah Hex, we have a film I believe to have been made by the Horse With No Name.

That, to me, is the only rational explanation. Whoever put together the film as we see it in cinemas obviously had some ostensible understanding of the genre, and of the DC Comics source material, but no understanding whatsoever of human communication, or of what entertains or appeals to audiences. So why not a particularly experienced equine actor? This seems like the film you'd make if you wanted to get away from being sat on by Clint Eastwood.

The credited director is former Pixar animator Jimmy Hayward, and the screenplay is attributed to Crank creators Neveldine/Taylor. The pair were tagged to direct until they departed due to “creative differences”, and the sheer amount of studio mandated reshoots and schedule changes makes authorship a moot point with this. The horse is merely my scapegoat, as it behooves us to disassociate Pixar from the drop-dead worst film of 2010 so far.

Neveldine/Taylor don't escape blame though- the script, even though the scenes have clearly all been muddled up, is terrible. The plot centres around the dumbest kind of historical allegory involving an anachronistic WMD and the sight of bandits wrapped in dynamite stepping in for suicide bombers. The dialogue is awful too- at one point, we have John Malkovich delivering the line “We will show them that we will do that which we have most assuredly come here to do.” In a terrible Southern accent.

There is no way I'm going easy on this just because the studio went to town on the final cut. There's already enough wrong with it that I'm sceptical this mess of footage was ever salvageable. It feels too long. Even with the whole origin story largely condensed into a poorly rendered motion comic in the first five minutes, it feels too long. Even though it's not asking anything of its audience, it feels too long. Even though it's 81 minutes long, including nine minutes of credits, it feels too fucking long.

Oh, but here's the one really positive thing to come out of Jonah Hex- it feels so long that you'll be checking your watch. And when you check, you'll notice the big hand pass over Megan Fox's 15th minute of fame, spent playing Lila the hooker in this piece of trash. Even for her, it's a thankless role, and without the adolescent goodwill garnered by her semi-annual Transformers appearances, her career's going nowhere but down from here.

I already mentioned Malkovich, but the rest of the cast don't really acquit themselves either. Josh Brolin is fine and craggy as Hex, but he really doesn't have enough to work with to make any kind of impression. I found Michael Fassbender's fleeting appearance more memorable, but that's because he's an actor who makes the most of every role, good or bad, and also because, unlike Brolin, he wasn't unintelligible due to facial prosthetics.

Watching Jonah Hex, I found it really all too easy to imagine a horse demolishing an editing suite, his hooves destroying a keyboard as he tries to edit a love scene between Hex and Lila. He knows what he wants to evoke. He wants to signify why we should care about these characters, and why their relationship is worth a damn. Ultimately, we shouldn't and it isn't. And he's too witless, too unfocused and too utterly inept to make even a tenth of an enjoyable film out of this hash of an adaptation.

The comic has its fans, who've naturally renounced this film version, so there's no blaming the source material. Besides, we know from the example of High Plains Drifter and others that a supernatural film that deploys the codes and conventions of a Western could be awesome. What we get here is a worse version of Wild Wild West. Jonah Hex is not merely bad. It's “I really think a horse might have directed this film” bad.

Jonah Hex is now playing in select cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Jonah Hex, why not leave a comment on the film and/or my review? If you were hoping for a review of The Last Exorcism, come back on Wednesday- I wanted a repeat viewing today before I gave my review. In a nutshell though, go see that film instead of this one.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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