It is a consistent if ill-considered move to make JONAH HEX as lifeless as the dead with whom the title character converses. Based on the DC Comic of the same name, it follows the adventures of said Jonah (Josh Brolin), a bounty hunter with heavy baggage, and even heavier facial disfigurement, as hes called upon by the United States government in general, and President Ulysses S. Grant (Aiden Quinn) in particular, to save the country from a 19th-century weapon of mass destruction.
Part of that baggage is his past as a Confederate officer in the Civil War. Another part is the frustrated revenge he seeks against the reason for the disfigurement: Quentin Trumbull (John Malkovich), who burned Jonahs family alive in his own bid for revenge for the way Jonah shot Turnbulls son while also not following a direct order from Turnbull senior during the war. Theres a great deal of back story here, the best of it told all too briefly with panels from the comic, and Jonah hasnt moved on from any of it. He has, however, moved in the arms of Lilah (Megan Fox), the comely whore who loves him but doesnt let that stop her from doing business elsewhere between Jonahs visits. His near-death experience at the hands of Turnbull hasnt just made him dyspeptic, its also given him, thanks to the ministrations of the Crow tribe, the ability to talk to the dead. And not just talk to them, he can also torture them into giving him information if they dont cooperate.
Turnbull faked his death in a fire, but unwisely let that secret slip out while attempting to assemble the components of the super weapon commissioned by the government, but never built because it seemed like a bad idea. Jonah, no friend of any government, takes on the job of stopping Turnbull and his band of unreconstructed Confederate soldiers from succeeding in his nefarious plan because, now that he knows hes alive, Jonas is going to be killing his ex-commander anyway.
Little expense has been spared here as far as production values go. Trains explode grandly, Brolins prosthetic that renders his face into an unsightly grimace is bold and believable, the impressive array of only slightly anachronistic firepower is rendered with loving detail, the visualization of a Native American, including a crow that flies out of Jonah mouth none the worse for the experience, is nicely trippy. Its everything else thats wrong. Brolin is stodgy rather than laconic, unable to communicate any real, much less roiling, emotion beneath the grizzled exterior. The artists rendering of the character in the graphic sequence is livelier without even the benefit of animation. Malkovich seems overcome with ennui rather than malicious intent beneath a rats nest of a wig and Fox is tough, toothsome, and just a little vacuous in her tight corset and slit petticoats. The writing is even duller showing no wit, no smarts, and no spark of energy. Even so, a few supporting performances prove worthy. Will Arnett is delightfully fatuous Army officer, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, wistfully detached as Turnbulls dead son and the best friend that Jonah shot, and Michael Fassbender is a sparkplus as Turnbulls psychopathic explosives expert given to florid tattoos and giggling.
Jonah HEX used a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of pyrotechnics to deliver a tiny little fizzle of a flick. Ponderously executed, it is a turgid, tedious exercise in pointless excess.