JONAH HEX should've been superb in the way that SOLOMON KANE was superb. Based on pulp comics written by John Albano and illustrated by Tony DeZuniga, Jonah was a late ninteenth century bounty hunter in the Old West, sold to the Apaches by his father, his face disfigured by scars in a tribal ritual, bound to protect the innocent, and battling alcoholism. Jonah had no superpowers or skills other than being a damn fine shooter, and was the classic lone anti-hero.
The movie version of Jonah Hex abandons the simplicity of the original. It's as if the scriptwriters, Neveldine, Taylor (of CRANK fame) and William Farmer, just didn't trust the source material to be exciting enough, although as the former have disowned the script, perhaps the original was more coherent and faithful? Whatever the truth, the film version of Jonah Hex is given superpowers - he can speak to the dead - and his disfiguring scars aren't from an Apache battle but from being branded by his nemesis, evil Confederate general, Quentin Turnbull. The plot is also shoe-horned into contemporary political allegory, with Turnbull a kind of anti-Unionist terrorist determined to blow up the White House, and Jonah hired by President Grant to stop him.
The result is a short film (it's barely an hour and ten minutes long sans credits) that feels mashed up in the editing booth - over-stuffed with characters and allegory - and never given the time to breathe and establish itself. Josh Brolin's Jonah Hex is suitably brooding, but John Malkovich must go down as the most environmentally sustainable actor of all time, recycling his typical baddie tropes as Turnbull. Megan Fox looks sultry but is given little else to do as Hex's love interest, and actors of the calibre of Michael Sheen are wasted in small roles. It is a film destroyed in re-writes and conflicting visions - an unloved bastard of a film - and a crying shame.
JONAH HEX was released in summer/autumn 2010 and is now available to rent and buy.