The comic-book adaptation is plain, old-fashioned torture.
Yep, it's hexed.
"Jonah Hex" is to film what the chicken nugget is to cuisine. Bland, anonymous, packed with non-nutritious filler, prepared without pride or love, easiest to consume if you're not paying attention. This is industrially processed entertainment at it cheapest, nastiest and greasiest.
Josh Brolin plays the title character, a Civil War veteran wandering the lawless, chaotic West, where the main activity of daily life is settling old scores. Fight scenes erupt every five minutes. This is not a comment on the Hobbesian brutality of the untamed frontier. The players continually empty the contents of their guns into each other because the filmmakers, recognizing they haven't given us interesting characters to follow, fear we'll get bored.
The plot ... sigh, where to begin? The explosion-prone story isn't strong on exposition. Illogical plots are fine in hot-weather comic-book movies, but "Jonah Hex" (based on a DC Comic) is stupefying. Director Jimmy Hayward, a Pixar veteran in his live-action debut, has created a slapdash movie littered with discordant scenes and editing too arbitrary to follow. The film attends to its myriad confusions in a long, baffling animated sequence apparently added when the cast and crew got sick of shooting real-life footage.
The gist of it is that Hex bears a grudge against Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich, King of Camp Cinema). Turnbull is a marauder who slaughtered Hex's family before his eyes, then used a branding iron to give him a facial scar that resembles a cheeseburger. But allowed him to live. This is how feuds get started.
Understandably, Hex is an ornery galoot. He grimaces like an ulcer patient, communicates in grunts and growls, and shoots people who wisecrack about his disfigurement. A bullet in the gut is Jonah's version of a witty retort. But he is no ordinary gunslinger. Hex has the power to restore the dead with his touch. Don't ask me to explain this. I gave up making sense of it 10 minutes in.
Rather than using his magic power to bring back his wife and son, Hex wants revenge on the fey, absinthe-sipping Turnbull. His ally is Lilah (Megan Fox), a feisty whore who has been manhandled by Turnbull's henchmen. She would be Hex's love interest except there is nothing lovable or interesting about her. Fox presents herself onscreen like a woman who is extraordinarily conscious of her looks and little else.
Turnbull raises the stakes on his villainy by plotting to destroy Washington, D.C., with a sort of atomic Gatling gun. This steampunk gizmo will put historians in mind of "Wild Wild West's" 100-foot-tall missile-launching mechanical spider. Throughout these proceedings, cutaways to President Grant (Aidan Quinn) show him looking like he could use a drink. Who can blame him for wanting to drown his sorrows after appearing in this fiasco? If the film were more excitingly bad, we could call it a bomb. As it is, "Jonah Hex" is a fizzle.
Colin Covert • 612-673-7186