The ‘Jonah Hex’ We Should Have (and Almost) Got

By  · Published on June 20th, 2010

If you were one of the few with the blind courage to pay and see Jonah Hex, then you’re most likely aware that it is not the most impressive summer blockbuster in terms quality, to say the least. The saddest fact about this monumental (rumored 65 million dollar) misfire? It had so much potential.

All the ingredients were there to make for a dynamic comic book movie, from the caliber of actors present, to the excellent DC Comic source material and a script from Neveldine/Taylor, the duo behind the Crank films.

Where did it all go so wrong?

It surely wasn’t the fault of Neveldine/Taylor script because, while they are the sole creditors, this isn’t the movie they would’ve made, or the one they wrote. A bit of what they envisioned survived the final film, but saying “survived” is too generous.

While they may not have intended to make a straight western like the comics, at least they would’ve made something distinct. We’re dealing with a surge of comic book films right now and this one won’t be remembered. It’s painfully paint-by-numbers and not the piece of craziness we would’ve seen if Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor directed as intended. If you’re interested in what their version would’ve been like and how their original draft differs, look no further.

Balls to the Saloon Wall

One of the biggest issues with Hex is the confused tone. Ranging from brooding seriousness to pure goofiness, it never knew what it wanted to be. The original script, on the other hand, knew exactly what it was: a balls-to-the-wall action movie. When you read the script, you’re actually laughing with it. When you watch the movie, you feel like you should be laughing, but it’s so sad that you can’t muster enough steam to let out a single chuckle at it. Brolin has stated before that the tone was something they played around a lot with in post-production. That indecisiveness shows on the screen.

Here’s an idea of what the tone is like in the Neveldine/Taylor draft: there’s a moment where Hex jams a piece of dynamite into his horse’s nuts to so it could blast off like it was shot out of a cannon (as described in the script). Moments similar to that happens throughout the entirety of the script.

Make no mistake, this would’ve been a hard-R Hex as well. The violence is graphically detailed and Hex spouts obscenities left and right. It would’ve been a total grindhouse film, but with an epic scope behind it. Even Hex’s introduction – which, in fairness, is slightly similar to the film’s- actually feels like a worthy intro. The sheriff’s men Hex faces off with are torn apart by his Gatling guns. Even the shooter in the coffin’s eye pops out from being shot in the face. All of this takes place during a storm as well. There’s an energy on the page, but what we got didn’t even come close to that.

Some may call this gratuitous, and it is, but at least it’s consistent and the action itself isn’t just a bunch of random explosions thrown in for the sake of explosions. There’s a description during the train sequence that labels it “beyond violent” and that’s what most of their film obviously would’ve been. Most importantly, you can actually feel the stakes at hand. This wasn’t the fairy tale version we got where everything goes to plan and ends happily-ever-after. Violence could’ve added weight to it all, but sadly we got a watered down PG-13 cut for the teens.

The Lone Gunman

Jonah Hex is quite a departure from how he was originally envisioned, and for the worst. Throughout the film it doesn’t even seem like he remembers his dead wife or child. And if he did actually feel bad, would he seriously be shacking up with a young prostitute? Doubtful. He was written as more of a foul mouth with guilt. Our hero should’ve been a bit more on the extremist side and an actual lone gunslinger. He ends up coming off as more of a counter-terrorist agent instead of an actual bounty hunter. It’s was like a weak episode of 24.

Lilah is described as an actual convincing prostitute. Unless I’m mistaken, most ladies of the night didn’t look like Fox back then and didn’t have pearly white teeth. Instead, she was originally described as a battered down one-time-beauty in her mid-thirties. Basically, not someone who looks 20 years younger than Hex. On paper the idea of Fox being Josh Brolin’s love interest sounds odd and it ends up being odder on screen. Originally, Lilah was hardly a major role. It’s obvious when Fox got involved they threw more scenes her way and, despite that, she’s still short changed.

Something many nerds will surely cry foul about: that there was no sex, as shown in the original Comic-Con footage. Initially, there was a rather heavy sex scene that plays parallel to showing how Hex got all his bullet wounds. One change with Lilah that I’m sure I won’t even have to elaborate on: Lilah’s face practically gets burnt off towards the end. At one point Burke (Michael Fassbender) pays her a visit – not knowing at all she is tied to Hex- and pours acid on her face for fun. Hex arrives right after it happens and practically watches as her face melts. Again, it doesn’t have to be explained why someone would think it’d be a bad idea to do that to Megan Fox.

Lastly, we’ve got the Quentin Turnbull character, played by John Malkovich. Turnbull ends up being nothing more than the mustache-twirling villain we’ve seen before. You generally expect something unique from Malkovich, but in the film he’s given nothing to work with (same goes for Fox, who’s getting a little unfairly called on). Originally, the country’s centennial celebration – a big half-baked theme in the film – meant far more to Turnbull. He lost his slaves, his money and then some; he lost everything. It’s a greater motive. Turnbull is far more intimidating in his character descriptions, as though he’s some monster filled with rage roaming the earth. The loss of his son is still a part of his motivation, but the idea of him losing Jeb (played oddly by Jeffery Dean Morgan) just puts the cherry on top.

Changed or Cut Out Completely

The film is filled with plenty of conveniences and is overall a contrived, choppy narrative. You know the very abrupt way the government finds Hex at the beginning? How some random sap that loves Lilah and rats on Hex to the government lackeys? Yeah, that laughably bad gimmick isn’t in the script at all. All the conveniences, unexplainable plot points and about everything else that doesn’t work wasn’t in the initial draft.

Lastly, here are a few more (minor) differences that got changed or cut out completely.

Its Balls Ripped Off

So, while you’ll see Neveldine and Taylor’s names at the end credits of this crushing disappointment of a summer movie, they’re not at all the ones to blame. Who is though? Is it Hayward? Warner Brothers? Or perhaps Brolin himself, who seemed to have more control than Hayward. No idea. It’s been rumored there was plenty cut out so possibly some of these much needed scenes were shot, but that’s something we can’t confirm until the inevitable Director’s Cut hits shelves.

One thing we do know: this could’ve been far better, and a character like Jonah Hex deserves better. This is another black-mark for an already disappointing summer rather than the strange film we would have gotten from Neveldine and Taylor. They wrote a solid script that someone butchered into 80 minutes of the worst kind of mediocracy, something the real Jonah Hex would never stand for.

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Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.