Review: 'Jonah Hex'

(Two stars)

Action and eye candy are the main ingredients in this shallow adaptation of the edgy DC comic about Civil War-era gunslinger Jonah Hex. Compelling plot and character development get lost somewhere between explosion No. 1 and explosion No. 78, but the film certainly satisfies the popcorn quotient for summer cinema.

Hex (Josh Brolin) is a scar-faced bounty hunter whose main motivation is vengeance after he was forced to watch sadistic military man Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich) torch his home and murder his family. Nearing the brink of death somehow imbued Hex with arcane abilities to speak to the deceased -- abilities that prove useful as Hex hunts down Turnbull and his tattooed sidekick Burke (Michael Fassbender of "Inglourious Basterds").

But Turnbull's dastardly machinations go well beyond Jonah and his kin. He and his crew of loyal miscreants are bitter that the Union has won the Civil War, and set out to destroy the country using high-tech explosives. President Ulysses S. Grant (Aidan Quinn) asks for Hex's aid -- along with his array of impressive weaponry -- to take Turnbull down for good. Hex's growing fondness for seductive and independent prostitute Lilah (Megan Fox) complicates matters, but retribution is a powerful motivator.

At a piddling 81 minutes, "Jonah Hex" never provides any real character depth or background. The audience isn't given much opportunity to care about Hex, Lilah or anyone else, making the film all spectacle and little substance. The script is generic and bland, although it seems to stay relatively true to the source material. And the hard-rock soundtrack becomes distracting from scene to scene.

Brolin is admirable in the leading-man role, but his scar prosthetic forces him to snarl and growl his way through his lines, and about 20 percent of his dialogue gets lost in translation. Fassbender is one of the film's highlights and he gives a charismatic spark to what could have been a dull henchman.

Malkovich, though, sleepwalks through his performance in one of the most lackluster portrayals the otherwise excellent actor has ever offered. Fox neither helps nor hurts the film, though her inclusion will certainly satisfy the male demographic the movie is geared toward.

Some comic-book adaptations make for a big-screen bang. This one should have stayed holstered.

Rated PG-13 for sexual content, intense sequences of action, intense sequences of violence and disturbing images. 1 hour, 21 minutes.

— Tyler Hanley

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