Despite its A-list cast and awesome comic potential, ‘Jonah Hex’ is vexingly bad

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to predict whether a movie will be good or bad. Sometimes you hear about a movie that just sounds stupid (“Avatar” comes to mind), and then it makes a billion dollars.

And then sometimes a movie has an OK premise and reputable actors, but turns out to be the equivalent of a bloated possum corpse wedged in a storm drain.

Jonah Hex” actually sounded kind of interesting. It probably was never going to be great, but it could’ve been entertaining in a goofy sort of way. Instead, it turned out like ” well, like a bloated possum corpse wedged in a storm drain.

Set in 1876, “Jonah Hex” is based on a DC Comics character from the early 1970s. In his original incarnation, Hex was just a typical Western gun for hire with a horrific facial scar he got after being banished from his adopted Apache tribe.

In the movie, Hex (Josh Brolin, “Milk“) has a facial scar, but its origins are Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich, “Burn After Reading“), Hex’s former confederate commander in the Civil War. During the war, Turnbull took to murdering civilians, a practice Hex couldn’t stomach. For his “treason,” Turnbull makes Hex watch while he murders his family, and then brands his face.

Close to death, Hex is nursed back to life by a tribe of magical American Indians. They use their powerful “medicine” to heal him, which has unintended consequences. Hex comes away with the ability to animate the dead by touching them, which gives him an information-gathering edge. Hex didn’t originally have any supernatural superpowers, so one can only assume the writers stole this idea from the now-defunct “Pushing Daisies.” While that wouldn’t have been so bad in itself, the device is underused, and barely serves the plot.

After a number of years, Hex is informed by Lt. Grass (the improbably cast and totally misused Will Arnett, “When In Rome“) that Turnbull is planning to use a super-weapon for some kind of terrorist operation. Joined by Lilah (Megan Fox, “Jennifer’s Body“), his Whore with the Heart of Gold, Hex sets out to stop Turnbull and revenge his family.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong with this movie. It has Brolin and Malkovich, a pair that should have been able to anchor even the most unhinged script. There are better leading ladies than Fox, but she’s far from the worst.

The most likely culprit is director Jimmy Hayward, whose only other credit is “Horton Hears a Who!,” which isn’t the greatest example of storytelling prowess, either. Whoever is at fault, “Jonah Hex” suffers from a bad case of narrative randomness. It’s as if the movie was much longer, but was chopped down to a spare 80 minutes by what could only be a coked-out studio executive.

Whatever. It’s really just so half-assed that it doesn’t even bear much scrutiny. Not to mention the whole “magic Indian” thing is offensive, clichéd, pointless and lazy. As a punishment, the writers and Hayward should be donkey punched by Sergio Leone’s ghost. “Mike Robertson

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Mike Robertson

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