What if I told you there was a film starring Michael Fassbender, Josh Brolin, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, and it was written (and almost directed by) Neveldine & Taylor? Would you want to see that film? I would want to see that film! In fact, for all intents and purposes I would probably be first in line to see that film having, in the last year, fallen in love with Fassbender, the CRANK series, and GAMER.
Now what if I told you the film also starred Megan Fox (as a whore—surprise!), John (“I phone it in 90% of the time”) Malkovich, was directed by Jimmy Hayward (whose only experience is being an animator on several CG films and director of HORTON HEARS A WHO?), and was called JONAH HEX? Yeah, I didn’t see that one either. UNTIL TODAY!!!
Clocking in at a whopping 81 minutes, JONAH HEX has little to offer the viewing audience, plus the fact it was extensively re-shot by Francis Lawrence (I AM LEGEND) makes for a confusing, cluster-f-bomb of a film.
I can count on the number of fingers how many JONAH HEX comics I’ve read (what’s it called when you make a fist? Oh, right. ZERO!), but in theory that shouldn’t matter. What’s on screen should matter, and that, my friends, is a nearly operatic mess.
So here is the film as it played out (despite who directed what): JONAH HEX is a Confederate soldier (as we learn, not because he believed in succession or slavery–he in fact buys all his high-tech weaponry from a freed slave…which HEX of course casually tosses aside after using. Has no one in the Old West ever heard of reloading?!–but because he was loyal to his home state in the south), who, after defying the orders of his General QUENTIN TURNBALL (Malkovich) to burn down a Yankee hospital kills Turnball’s son and heads for the hills where he starts a simple life, and family of his own. After the defeat of the South, Turnball seeks retribution on HEX for the murder of his son by crucifying HEX and having him watch as his home, filled with his wife and children, burn before him. He’s also mutilated with a QT branding iron (Quentin Tarantino reference?). After being mystically revived by Indians (who have somehow given him power to speak with the dead) HEX heads out to seek revenge (he also uses an axe to further mutilate his face so his QT brand is now just a mish-mash of charred flesh with exposed teeth on right side).
In an animated sequence I can only assume was animated because neither Hayward nor Lawrence filmed these scenes of the exposition (maybe it was a call-back to the comics?) HEX “discovers” Turnball died in a fire so he goes about his business of being a bounty hunter and banging a whore with a heart of whatever, Megan Fox (who, despite what you might think of her acting chops, is waaaayyyy to pretty to be playing an old west whore).
Oooooofffff course Turnball isn’t dead, and HEX is recruited by President Grant (Aiden Quinn) and his right-hand man Lt. Grass (Will Arnett) to hunt down Turnball. Using his ability to speak with the dead, including Turnball’s son Jeb (in an uncredited performance by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) the one who HEX killed, HEX tracks down Turnball. But wouldn’t you know it—in a horrible rewrite of history, JONAH HEX has Eli Whitney (creator of the cotton gin) being a mad scientist type who had invented the first proto-atomic device that Turnball wants to use to blow Washington, DC to smithereens on the 4th of July.
Anyway: Fighting. Killing. The proto-nuclear cannon boat is destroyed and everyone lives happily ever after, I guess (except for Fox who has to wake up to Brolin’s face every day).
Here’s my real problems with JONAH HEX, despite it being nearly incomprehensible what with two directors and all (in fact a final psychedelic showdown between Brolin and Malkovich was SUPPOSED to be the final climax of the film, but instead was used as sequences to show HEX’s resolve in killing Turnball): This “film” felt like a pilot for a television series. Maybe I’m just saying that because I recently watched a similar TV show ‘BRISCO COUNTY, JR’ (which features both revenge on the murder of his family, a love interest/whore with a heart of whatever, and technology based way beyond what the old west could fathom), but this article on the failings of JONAH HEX seems to agree with me. (Granted, it might feel that way because it was short, had a premise that felt more like a TV pilot episode more than a stand-alone film, which, in theory, was meant to garner sequels which would have brought back MICHAEL SHANNON and others, but after losing $35 MILLION at the box office, that wasn’t gunna happen).
Sadly Nevedine/Taylor did not direct this film. They dropped out soon after Thomas Jane was rejected for Josh Brolin, and disagreements with the studio over the films over-all direction and theme. If they had, this might have been a hit. Or at least a DVD hit that would have earned HEX the said sequels. But fate was not to be. Instead it’s a choppy mess, that, god bless it, took up less than 90 minutes of my day.
While Tommy Jane did go on to voice HEX in a direct-to-dvd MOTION COMIC, what could have been between him and Neveldine/Taylor was wasted on what now exists. What wasn’t wasted? FASSBENDER!!!
While Fassbender’s role was limited, he did have a few key moments, and no one has never looked more bad-ass in neck and face tattoos and a bowler cap than him. Had I not fallen in love with him until X-MEN: FIRST CLASS I probably would have wasted money to see HEX theatrically. Instead I spent literally ONE DOLLAR on a JONAH HEX dvd, and I want my money back!!!
*Danno Klonowski is a cartoonist and co-host of the Wayne Gale Variety Hour podcast. Both of which you can see/find links to at his site*