Review: Jonah Hex is Derailed & Disfigured by Awful Editing
by Jeremy Kirk
June 19, 2010
Chopped up. Scarred. Disfigured until the original can no longer be identified. No, I'm not referring to the face of the character Jonah Hex. I'm referring to the movie Jonah Hex, the latest adaptation of a DC Comic. What may have started out as a decent western actioner complete with stylish scenes of explosive action and non-stop violence has most assuredly been whittled down to near nothing, a sad example of a film that borders on the unwatchable.
What we can gather from what's left of the film intact, the story follows Hex, played by Josh Brolin, a former confederate soldier who is severely scarred and forced to watch his family murdered by a terrorist named Turnbull, played by John Malkovich. After brushing death and brought back by the mystics of an Indian tribe, Hex is now a bounty hunter. Having seen death, Hex is able to converse with the dead, a gift that aids in his seeking out and capturing outlaws. With the aid of a prostitute, played by Megan Fox, Hex's latest bounty is the very man who made him who he is, the terrorist who is dead set on bringing anarchy to the known world.
Originally, Jonah Hex was to be written and directed by Neveldine and Taylor, the duo who brought us Crank and Gamer. Things didn't work out, and they walked away from the project after the script had been written. Naturally, Warner Bros went with Jimmy Hayward, the man whose previous, directing credit includes Horton Hears a Who! But, alas, that isn't where Jonah Hex falls apart. Neveldine and Taylor's script seems satisfactory enough, full of enough character moments and wall-to-wall action to service just about any level of action fan. Hayward's direction is stylish and slick. In fact, the production design by Tom Meyer is fairly stellar.
Unfortunately, what ultimately derails Jonah Hex is the editing, both within the confines of each scene and in the structure of the film as a whole. Four people served as editor on Jonah Hex, and I won't bother to name them simply because there is no telling at this time who is responsible for what. Let's just say, as a whole, the editing is the biggest problem this film has, and it is so unavoidable it completely ruins anything the film may have had going for it in the first place. There is so much back and forth editing within each action scene, it becomes extremely difficult to tell who is who or what is being done to just about anyone. Explosions happen. We don't know why. People fly back as if being shot. No one has a gun. These are all jarring moments that quickly take you out of any story that may have gripped you to begin with.
In the broader scope of the film, the editing is much, MUCH worse. Hex is brisked from set piece to set piece with very little instigation and even less establishment. We rarely know where he is or why he's even there to begin with. Some scenes even seem to be edited together, as if a patch-work of two scenes into one might help move the film along a bit. It doesn't, and only adds to the confusing mess we already have to deal with. Certain characters and the actors who play them fall victim to this lack of cohesive editing, most notably Michael Shannon who plays a barker at a boxing match. Literally do not blink or you will miss his two seconds of dialogue-less screen time.
The rest of the cast varies in degrees of serviceability. Brolin seems the perfect choice as Hex, and he plays the part with everything he's got. Malkovich can play this type of villain in his sleep, and he appears to be doing just that here. Fox is horrid, only there for window dressing and as a possible distraction from the fact that her character does absolutely nothing. Michael Fassbender as one of Malkovich's henchman very nearly steals every scene he is in, and it pains you to think of a better film he and Brolin's Hex could have been put into to give their violent relationship more weight.
And, ultimately, this is the very thing the editing in Jonah Hex pulls out of the film. At 85 minutes (75 minus the credits), there is an absolute lack of weight to the film. You see the action going on, you witness the violence and the explosions hitting the screen from right and left, but you don't care. If any film has suffered more from its post-production than Jonah Hex, I don't believe I have seen it. This film is so unrecognizable from what it may have once been, in fact, that it is impossible to review it based on anything but the horrendous patch job that occurred after it was shot.
Perhaps there will be a Director's Cut that puts back in all the character developments, all the natural transitions between scenes, and all the meaning of what we are witnessing. As it is, though, we get none of that, and Jonah Hex is left more disfigured and unidentifiable than its lead character.
Jeremy's Rating: 3 out of 10