With a great scar comes great responsibility. Just ask Jonah Hex. Josh Brolin stars as the DC Comics western anti-hero, a former Confederate soldier who wanders the south as a bounty hunter, drowning his misery in booze and the comfort of his hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold love, Lilah, played by the impossibly-proportioned Megan Fox. (Rumor has it one potential title for the film was Jonah Hex and the Six Inch Waistline.)
After Hex refuses to burn down a hospital, as ordered by the maniacal General Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), Hex is forced to kill his commanding officer, Turnbull's son, before deserting his post. As punishment, Turnbull makes Hex watch as his own son and wife burn before he finally brands Hex with the mark ("QT") of the man who took everything from him. Left for dead, Hex is revived by a Crow Indian medicine man, but now walks the earth with the unusual ability to converse with the dead. Fans of NBC's criminally-underrated "Pushing Daisies" will certainly recognize this trick, but it's used effectively to move Jonah's supernatural-laced story along.
When Turnbull surfaces later in the film, he's of course seeking to overthrow the newly-formed United States government and it's of course up to Jonah Hex to stop him. You wouldn't really have it any other way, would you?
"Attention Megan Fox's pores, you're wanted on the set." I know Ms. Fox is young and beautiful, and she's often standing next to a deformed and grizzled beast here, but there isn't one frame in Jonah Hex where she doesn't look like a wax figure. Normally, I'd point the finger at digital noise reduction and film grain scrubbing on the part of the studio, but Jonah's gristle and skin texture is fully intact and there are many scenes where a noticeable layer of film grain is quite evident. As such, I'm not sure what to make of Ms. Fox and the remarkable sheen she's sporting here, but it's the only disconcerting blemish (or lack thereof?) on this otherwise excellent 2.40:1 transfer from the folks at Warner Bros. Blacks appear deep while retaining shadow detail, skin tones look natural, and fine image detail is quite impressive at times, particularly during the film's many facial close-ups.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack for Jonah Hex opens with a bang and Turnbull's "nation killer" packs some serious wallop in the final act, but the middle of the film is surprisingly front-heavy. For much of the film, the rear channels are given little to do, though the subwoofer gets a regular workout thanks to Hex's penchant for unique weaponry and his knack for getting shot. Dialogue is crisp and intelligible throughout.
For a 75-minute film, it shouldn't come as a big surprise that Jonah's on-disc extras are somewhat scant. The most notable feature is a Picture-in-Picture (PiP) viewing mode entitled "The Weird Western Tales of Jonah Hex" - a mouthful yes, but inspired by the character's comic origins - which offers a well-edited stream of behind-the-scenes footage coupled with cast and crew interviews while the film plays in the larger window. Fans will enjoy it, though I do wish Warner had made this content available as a separate featurette and playable full-screen. The problem with it as is lies in the "secondary audio" stream it requires, a feature often disabled on players (such as mine) that are configured to bitstream the output of the high-resolution primary audio channel, in this case DTS-HD Master Audio. Going back to the player's setup menu to temporarily change the setting and having to restart disc playback can be quite a pain.
In addition to the PiP viewing mode, you also get a handful of deleted scenes and a 10-minute look at the character's comic book origins. The latter features a few interesting sit-downs with DC Comics writers and illustrators, but ultimately fails to touch upon the specific story being told in the film and what comic book inspirations, if any, came into play during the film's inception.
Ultimately a revenge tale, Jonah Hex gets off to a promising start and its first thirty minutes had me cautiously optimistic. Josh Brolin's growl and scowl make for an impressive screen presence, and the comic book-style, pre-credit origin story is well executed. However, even Hex's admittedly-cool, horse-mounted Gatling guns can't make up for the sheer ridiculousness of Turnbull's "nation killer" weapon, a bored performance from screen legend John Malkovich, and the film's character-compromising 75-minute run time. Still, the film's minimal time investment means you could easily do worse for a Friday night rental.
Actors: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Michael Fassbender, Aidan Quinn
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Audio/Languages: DTS-HD Master Audio (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Number of Discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Release Date: October 12, 2010
Run Time: 82 minutes
List Price: $35.99
The Weird Western Tale of Jonah Hex (PiP viewing mode)