(Jimmy Hayward, 2010)
Jonah Hex is a pretty simple character, so simple that it seems hard to believe any film could mess up his appeal so comprehensively. An ex-Confederate Soldier with a long, tragic history turned deadly, surly Bounty Hunter, he is more-or-less a generic Western hero type. He speaks little, kills often, but is bound by a personal code of honour to do the right thing and protect the innocent.
The place for such a character is in a stark, taut, visceral action Western, which is how the majority of the various comic book series in which he has featured have used him.
Jimmy Hayward's Jonah Hex is no such thing. Instead it seems set upon being a comic-influenced modern Western, shot like a music video, massively influenced by video games, determined to cram in as much of Hex's lore as possible into around 70 minutes (this feels like a film which was cut to bits in the editing room). The first five minutes fly through Hex's Civil War story in an unbearably shallow manner, mixing actual comic book art with brief snippets of scenes, all of it obviously meant to be held together by a Josh Brolin voiceover. Then it's onto the plot proper, with John Malkovich's insane Confederate General determined to destroy the USA by blowing up Washington with a Super-Weapon. Malkovich plays it at his usual high camp pitch, while Michael Fassbinder wanders around, utterly wasted as an Irish psychopath, giggling like a villain from the 60s Batman tv show.
Brolin is ok as Hex - it's a part that doesn't require much once his make-up is in place - and Megan Fox registers only as a strange sort of special effect, her celebrated body fetishized in a Western prostitute outfit, so insubstatial and pointless is her character; but they're all mired in an awful film, which is tonally berserk, incoherent for most of its running time, aggressively ugly and utterly boring. Its attempts to do "different" things with Hex are ill-thought: here he can speak to the dead, for some ridiculous reason, and carries twin Gatling guns strapped to his horse. This is like a Western having a seizure. It forgets all of the great things about the genre and replaces them with the worst aspects of modern blockbusters; explosions, murky action scenes, bad cgi. It makes the similarly disastrous steam punk Western Wild Wild West seem like a classical masterpiece. It makes me hope Hollywood never gets it's hands on another comic book Western character.