30 March 2011

Movies: Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1075747/

Jonah Hex chose to refuse confederate general Quentin Turnbull's order to kill innocents, even to the point of killing QT's son Jeb.   After the Civil War QT tracks Hex down, accuses him of being a traitor to the confederacy, burns Hex's family alive in front of Hex, and brands a QT into Hex's face so he'll never forget who did it.  Crow Indians find Hex days later, on the verge of death, and nurse him back to health. As Hex was on death's door he picked up the ability to talk to the dead.  Hex hears QT died in a hotel fire, which prevents Hex from exacting his revenge on QT, so Hex became a bounty hunter.  Then the President of the US finds out that QT is alive and has stolen the parts of a massive 'continent killer' weapon designed by Eli Whitney, so he has the Army track Hex down to take out QT. Once Hex hears QT is alive, he takes on the task of stopping QT.

Stars Josh Brolin as Jonah Hex. John Malkovich as Quentin Turnbull. Actually there's a few recognizable folks cast in this film.  Oh yeah, Megan Fox shows up for no reason a few times too and hid her thumbs well.

Oh crap, the snark is already creeping in. Can't help it.  I really wanted to give this film a chance despite the negative reviews.

The good thing about this film: it is 81 minutes long.
I have to admit there are some good scenes.   Some parts of the story are kind of interesting, like the talking to the dead thing. I understand that wasn't part of the comic book Jonah Hex character, but it seemed like an intriguing idea, even though it was a little "Pushing Daisies"*  - like. Hex's makeup job was good.

Other parts - not so much. Like the Indian folks  Native Americans just showing up out of nowhere time to time to nurse Hex back to health, yet really having no other reason to be in the story. Or the twin mounted gatling-guns on JH's horse. Um, yeah.  I know there are movies this would be appropriate in, but this film didn't stay in that kind of a movie space. It meandered in and out of where it wanted to be.  It's like someone said "steampunk" in a sentence and production said "oh yeah I heard about that word, let's mount some gatling guns on the horse. That's steampunky -right?"
If the horse flew too I would have been fully dropped into a "Gentlemen Broncos" place.

I have trouble putting into words why this film didn't really work for me. The music was distracting. The story seemed disjointed, even though it concentrated on telling the one tale. Perhaps it was in the cuts?  I don't know if the director or DP watched any classic westerns - there didn't seem to be any classics influences on how the shots were set up or filmed. It looked like the shots were framed more like cartoon panels, but way less effectively than Sin City or Watchmen.
In a sequence that has practically nothing to do with the film's plot Tom Wopat shows up as Luke Duke a colonel that once worked for QT. The Tom Wopat scene made no sense at all, 'cause Hex could have gone straight to where he ended up anyhow, especially because he'd already established what the dead do and do not see.
From the Michael Bay playbook we have building-leveling explosions for no reason. Shooting a box of dynamite lights the fuse on one bundle instead of making it blow up immediately(!?). Plus the whole Eli Whitney takes the logical step from creating the cotton gin to making weapons of mass destruction. Because we know that was Oppenheimer's journey - from designing support bras to becoming the father of atomic weapons.

Cast-wise: Brolin played his part well. Malcovich can just phone in bad guys anymore - he's good at 'em so it doesn't even look like he had to try. I'm not saying Malcovich didn't put in effort, he's just done this guy a few times in other films so it's almost like a costume for him.  Unfortunately a lot of great actors got relegated to background supporting roles that wasted such a wealth of talent. It was cool to (briefly) see Broyles and Lincoln Lee from Fringe in there. Megan Fox looked sweaty.

The movie does have its decent moments, some flashes of smarts. It has some entertainment value, on a level. And it's a mess.   I guess it sort of reminds me of 1999's Wild Wild West in a way - that is - in the way that I'd probably rate both a generous 4 on a scale of  1 to 10. 3 being Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus quality. Yeah - this is just slightly past that - bigger budget with bigger stars and better CGI and heroic editing to get halfway coherent movie out of it. 

I realize nobody sets out to make a bad movie.  This one looked like a B movie script and production shot with a budget big enough to score some bigger-named cast members and decent CGI then edited expertly into the best they could get out of the existing footage.  81 minute movie? That's practically unheard of for a theatrical release these days, and rather telling if that's the usable footage.

Entertaining in some moments, but not very fulfilling as a whole.  Had potential, failed to deliver.

* "Pushing Daisies" was a fun quirky TV comedy series back in 2007. Unfortunately it only lasted two very short seasons. Season 1 was cut extra short by the writer's strike. I was sad to see it go. It was cute, funny, quirky, had a great cast, good tongue-in-cheekiness, silly, punny, and got canceled way before its time.  I was sad.

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