'Jonah Hex' A Hot, Jumbled Mess

Who directed this, Jackson Pollack?

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Another summer, another comic book move. Jonah Hex, director Jimmy Hayward's adaptation of the DC Comics series about a disfigured, vengeful gunslinger, premieres this weekend. Movie-goers are already skeptical: despite a star-studded cast (including sometime lout Josh Brolin and perpetual dreamgirl Megan Fox), the jumbled plot and unusually short running-time of 80 minutes have left some wondering if Hollywood's comic-book mania has produced yet another train wreck. Unfortunately for Hayward and Warner Bros, the critics are affirming the worst fears of comic buffs nationwide.

  • A Mish Mash of Awful "It's based on some DC Comics characters, which may explain the way the plot jumps around," writes Roger Ebert, alluding to 2009's Watchmen. "We hear a lot about graphic novels, but this is more of a graphic anthology of strange occult ideas." Ebert scoffs at the other haphazard features of the film, from the constantly shifting landscape of the film ("Jonah Hex" is a Western set around the town of Stunk Crick, although that doesn't entirely explain why the climactic scene involves an attack on the U. S. Capitol Building in Washington....Using my powers of logic, I deduce that the characters traveled there from Stunk Crick. The movie is not precise in its geography") to the extraneous role Lilah, a hooker and Jonah's love interest. "The presence of Lilah in the film is easily explained: She is played by Megan Fox" giggles Ebert. "If you want a woman in an old western town, there are only three occupations open to her, hooking, schoolmarming, and anyone called Ma."
  • Bad, Even For Bad Movies The AV Club's Keith Phipps laments the days when bad movies were somewhat good: "Bad movies aren’t what they used to be. More specifically, bad movies that make it into theaters these days usually have a base level of competence that sets them apart from the bad movies of yesteryear. Dullness dwells where incompetence used to call home. The Raja Gosnells far outnumber the Ed Woods. But every once in a while, a film limps into theaters so stitched together, it’s a wonder it doesn’t rip apart in the projector. Jonah Hex is such a film." Like Ebert, Phipps traces some of the film's morass to its overly hurried production. Among Phipps's complaints: "A fight scene with no dreamlike elements, apart from a sky tinted red in post-production, repeatedly appears as a dream sequence. A chunk of Hex’s origin is told by way of animation for no apparent reason. Narration comes and goes. Whole elements, like Hex’s supernatural powers and Megan Fox’s prostitute-in-distress, could disappear without anyone noticing." You can almost hear Phipps sigh with exasperation. "And that’s without even mentioning the Native American village that shows up at random."
  • A Hot Mess The Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey gives no quarter in tearing apart Hayward's baby, dubbing the film everything from "a smoldering ash heap " to "the latest DC Comics transmogrification into mega-action mess." While Sharkey concedes that the story effectively conveys the comic book theme of mixing the real and mythical--with fairly decent visual effects to boot--she lays into the writers. "Writers Neveldine & Taylor, who I gather aren't using their first names to protect the family's rep, have found a way to turn biblical references into bad dialogue at head-turning speed while making 83 minutes feel like a lifetime."
  • Without Substance "When the biggest buzz online about your movie concerns whether its running time is 72 or 73 minutes, you know your film is trouble," write the Wall Street Journal's staff. "Jonah Hex also boasts a fair number of good actors, including John Malkovich, Will Arnett, Michael Fassbender, Wes Bentley and Michael Shannon — too bad each isn’t given that much to do"
  • And I Care...Why? The Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan is thoroughly unimpressed. "'Jonah Hex' may not be the longest 81 minutes you ever spend, but it might well be the most tedious," seethes the film critic, decrying the inability of the film to draw the audience in. "Will Hex catch Turnbull? And will he be able to stop him in his fiendish plan to attack Washington with a secret, and wildly implausible, super-weapon? Who cares....Like Hex himself, the movie may not exactly be dead, but it sure as heck ain't living."
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