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It admittedly starts off great guns, but all too quickly it becomes apparent that the big-screen arrival of the supernatural Western DC Comics series “Jonah Hex” is firing loud, empty blanks.
Although Josh Brolin is fine and dandy as the Civil War vet-turned-vengeful bounty hunter with one foot in the grave and a horrendously scarred face, the tortured anti-hero isn’t alone when it comes to being cut to the bone.
Clocking in at a barely there 81 minutes (and that includes the extensive credits sequence), the pared-down end product plays like a generous highlights reel with little else remaining to thread together those explosive, CG-riddled action sequences.
Originally slated for an early August bow, the Warner Bros. release was bumped up to serve as young male-skewing counterprogramming to “Toy Story 3,” but despite some entertaining bits and pieces, the overall picture unlikely will live up to fanboy Hex-pectations.
They’ll tell you that Jonah Hex can trace his DC roots back to the early 1970s but that his life and times date back a century earlier to the Civil War-era Wild West.
The legend, at least according to the screenplay by Neveldine & Taylor (the “Crank” movies), has Hex left physically and emotionally mutilated at the hands of the crazed Quentin Turnbull (efficiently if predictably played by John Malkovich), who killed Hex’s wife and child in retaliation for the death of his brother.
When Turnbull, believed to have been killed in a hotel fire, re-enters the picture with a nefarious scheme that will literally blow the Union apart, Hex is recruited to finally settle a long-standing score.
In the process, there’s no shortage of firepower, but something is missing — and not just a good chunk of the movie.
Hex eventually will always get his man, but director Jimmy Hayward (“Horton Hears a Who!”) fails to capture that all-important graphic comic tone that would have been a natural for the sensibilities of, say, Sam Raimi, the Coen brothers or Robert Rodriguez.
What one ends up with is something that comes precariously closer to the Barry Sonnenfeld misfire, “Wild, Wild, West,” especially by the third act.
Brolin’s on-the-money turn aside, it’s hard to gauge the other performances given how much of them seem to have been excised, particularly where the likes of Michael Shannon, Aidan Quinn and Tom Wopat are concerned.
Megan Fox fails to bring much of a spark to her role of Lilah, the New Orleans prostitute who keeps a candle burning for Hex.
What does get left onscreen certainly looks terrific, with cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen and production designer Tom Meyer getting quite resourceful with the Louisiana locations; composer Marco Beltrami and heavy metal outfit Mastodon provide the necessary sonic grit.
Opens: Friday, June 18 (Warner Bros.)
Production: Legendary Pictures, Mad Chance, Weed Road
Cast: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Screenwriters: Neveldine & Taylor
Executive producers: Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, William Fay, Matt LeBlanc, John Goldstone, Ravi Mehta
Producers: Akiva Goldsman, Andrew Lazar
Director of photography: Mitchell Amundsen
Production designer: Tom Meyer
Music: Marco Beltrami, Mastodon
Costume designer: Michael Wilkinson
Editors: Fernando Villena, Tom Lewis
Rated PG-13, 81 minutes
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