DVD Review: Jonah Hex

I haven't read the DC comic book chronicle of Jonah Hex's supernatural Wild West adventures, but I'm willing to wager it's more entertaining than the movie adaptation, a redo penned by screen writers whose claim to film fame is Crank.

Confederate soldier Hex (Josh Brolin) loses everything -- his wife, son, and perhaps his soul and sanity -- when he disobeys the orders of General Turnbull (John Malkovich) and in the process kills his best friend, the general's son. Turnbull retaliates by lashing Brolin to a cross so he can watch him set fire to his home (and wife and son). If that wasn't payback enough, he burns his brand into Hex's cheek so he'll never forget who took everything from him. Not wanting to see Turnbull's initials every time he looks into the mirror, Hex sears over the brand with a hot axe. Ah, much better. Or so he must think, but now he's even more grotesque, and near death too. Crow Indians save his life but leave him with a "curse" that brings him near the other side, and now he can converse with the dead (for a minute or two) after he's temporarily brought them back to life.

Alas, Hex can't use his supernatural skills to take revenge on Turnbull's revenge because the general has perished in a hotel fire. So he does what's "natural": he becomes a bounty hunter. He delivers outlaws to lawless double-crossing lawmen while riding through a desolate desert landscape that makes it seem like he's already entered the last circle of hell. Thankfully, the U.S. military informs Hex that Turnbull is alive and plotting to blow up the Union on Independence Day with a doomsday weapon. Uncle Sam wants Hex to foil Turnbull's evil plan. "Wait," you might ask, "the trailer promised me Megan Fox; where is she?" Fox plays Hex's love interest, Lilah, a sweaty, cleavage-popping, thigh-baring, pistol-wielding prostitute. Expecting a few sizzling bedroom scenes? Sorry, boys, there aren't any, and Brolin and Fox fail to exude even a whiskey-glass-full of chemistry in their brief screen time together. Perhaps it's because they have no more idea why they're together than the audience does.

Like the rest of the film's relationships, backstory, and plot points that might have benefited from more than a drive-by, Hex and Lilah's love story is just another topic crammed into 82 minutes of film. It's hard to connect to a movie that's in such a hurry. It appears Brolin, Fox, Malkovich, and an oddly cast Will Arnett (Lieutenant Grass) have just as much trouble staying invested, as they all seem to be Pony Expressing their performances in. Despite animating spellbinding adventures like Finding Nemo and Toy Story, Hayward can't seem to infuse any magic into Jonah Hex. Even the humor's as heavyhearted as Hex, and the cinematography (as aflame as it always is) produces a dim, murky, blurred landscape that's no more stirring than the special effects. A brief graphic novel interlude and surreal red-dirt dream scenes aren't any more impressive. As exciting as a Wild West bounty hunter who talks to dead people and who hell "has plans for" sounds, it doesn't make for an exciting movie (at least this adaption). Jonah Hex is as dead inside as its hero.

Special features:

The only extras are a few deleted scenes that were clearly deleted for good reason. Highlights include a lecherous drunk offering Lilah a swig of liquor that he claims is so effective for female problems "it can even rejuvenate beaver creek." That sounds like a line that would work well in a

film like Jonah Hex ... er, I mean Jonah Sex, the X-rated straight-to-video parody of Hayward's bomb.

Jonah Hex is available now on DVD from Warner Home Video.