"If you get yourself into a jam, I imagine you can find me."
The movie bombed. "Jonah Hex," 2010. Movie-theater audiences stayed away in droves. Is it really that bad a film? No. Warner Bros. afforded it a big-budget production. It stars the reliable Josh Brolin and John Malkovich and the attractive Megan Fox. And the filmmakers based the picture on a popular DC Comics character.
So, what went wrong? I can only guess, but let me venture three possibilities. First, it's a Western. When is the last time you remember a Western making any money at the box office? Was it in your lifetime? Second, the main character has a horribly disfigured appearance. After a disastrous encounter with an old enemy, Hex loses half his face. When is the last time you remember a film about a scarred main character making any money? Was it in your lifetime? And third, it's a pretty slow-going affair for a nonstop action film. When was....
Do any of these elements in "Jonah Hex" justify people not going to see it? Maybe. Yet life is unfair. We live with it. In the meantime, Warner Bros. provide another chance for people to watch the movie, this time on Blue-ray or DVD. Or in the case of this Combo Pack, both Blu-ray AND DVD. Although "Jonah Hex" is not a particularly riveting film, it has its moments, and even if you don't like it, it's short enough (82 minutes) that you won't have wasted too much of your time.
Jonah Hex (Brolin) is a former Confederate Army officer who falls on hard times. Through circumstances beyond his control, he kills the son of a Confederate general, Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich), a ruthless old soldier who exacts his revenge by murdering Hex's wife and son and then shoving a red-hot branding iron into Hex's face, leaving him for dead. But never underestimate the power of Native Americans, who come to Hex's rescue and nurse him back to health. Maimed and scarred and better than ever, Hex turns to bounty hunting for a living, with Turnbull his primary target.
Meanwhile, after faking his own death, Turnbull decides to take down the entire U.S. Government with a powerful secret weapon, a plot President Grant hears about almost too late. Grant knows the only man who can remedy the situation is Hex. "Mark my words, gentlemen," the President says, "the very fate of our nation may rest on the shoulders of Jonah Hex."
From this point on, it's a rather simple revenge plot. Hex must find and kill Turnbull before Turnbull destroys the country. The problem is that the plot and characters are remarkably two-dimensional, never getting beyond their comic-book origins, the whole movie showing evidence of having been edited down from something more complex. Here, Hex is a good guy, Turnbull is pure evil, and the pyrotechnics go on forever. That's about it.
However, the film has its minor virtues. For example, there are any number of amusingly violent scenes in it, starting with an early gunfight where Hex pulls out a pair of Gatling guns and mows down half a town. Director Jimmy Haywood ("Horton Hears a Who!") may not have a big roster of films behind him, but at least he has a sense of humor. Later, a show-off gunfighter remarks about Hex's face, "Hex, what happened to your face?" Hex blows him away and casually remarks, "Cut myself shaving. What happened to yours?" Also, Hex has a "knack" for speaking with the dead, a talent that comes in handy when he's in a crunch.
What's more, there is no denying the movie looks good--from the handsome landscapes to the lovely Megan Fox. Ms. Fox plays Lilah, a lady of the night and true love of Jonah Hex. She wants to run away with him, but he explains that anybody who gets close to him dies. He doesn't want her to get killed, which doesn't stop Turnbull, who uses her to get to Hex. While Ms. Fox doesn't get much screen time and remains mainly window dressing, she does maintain our attention when she is in a scene.
Finally, there is some striking imagery in the film, most of it, no doubt, coming straight from the graphic novels, which the movie makes clear from the beginning with its still-graphics introduction.
"Jonah Hex" provides the kind of comic-book action its fans probably want; it just doesn't do so with much conviction. It's all rather like, well, like a fairly dull comic-book.
WB engineers afford the film a good video transfer in its native 2.40:1 ratio, brought to high-definition Blu-ray via a single-layer BD25 and a VC-1 codec. As I've mentioned, there is some beautiful scenery and cinematography involved, which come across splendidly in bright, vivid, but not gaudy colors. A light film grain provides a lifelike texture to objects without ever drawing attention to itself, while detail and delineation remain clear and sharp. If there is one matter that is slightly askew, though, it's that facial tones can be a bit too dark and intense.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is certainly loud and very thumping. Wherever Hex goes, he leaves stuff blowing up and burning in his wake, all of which comes across with appropriately noisy sound effects. Oddly, there isn't as much side or rear-channel activity as you might expect from a comic-book adventure, so mostly the soundtrack is just blaring. Nevertheless, on the more positive side, the midrange is quiet and smooth, making dialogue easy to understand when the music isn't drowning it out.
There are several worthwhile extras on the Blu-ray disc. The first and most important is a picture-in-picture feature, "The Weird Western Tales of Jonah Hex," where you can play the movie with the filmmakers taking you behind the scenes in an insert covering the lower-right quarter of the screen. Next is an eleven-minute featurette, "The Inside Story of Jonah Hex," that traces the main character from comic-book to celluloid. And after that are three additional scenes, totaling about five minutes.
Because this is a Combo Pack, it comes with a Blu-ray disc, a DVD, and digital copy (the copy offer expiring October 10, 2011). In addition, the BD contains an astounding eight (count 'em, eight) scene selections; BD-Live access; a slipcover for the keep case; English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish spoken languages; French, Portuguese, and Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
I'd like to say this is one of the better comic-book adaptions for the big screen, but the movie is too short, the action too prosaic, and the characters too shallow for me to say that. At best, "Jonah Hex" is a harmless diversion, one that, unfortunately, may not warrant a second look.
"They say a man with vengeance in his heart is supposed to dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself. Well, I guess mine'll just have to wait."