This adaptation of a fairly obscure comic book has the novel distinction of being simultaneously too short and too long. In the confused jumble of voiceover narrative, flashbacks, dream sequences and tossed-off bits of back story, you sense a much longer—and probably crappier—movie that has been frantically reedited to salvage something. That edit has also cut out a lot of the violence that happens offscreen, so as to preserve the coveted PG-13. All that’s left is a trail of death and confusion, punctuated with explosions and scored with thrashing guitar rock that gives headbanging a bad name.
All the narrative stuff of an actual movie is technically there. Jonah (Brolin) is a former Confederate soldier turned snarling, cold-blooded bounty hunter with Gatling guns strapped to his horse and a horribly scarred face. Oh, and he can talk to the dead, reviving them by touching them. Then there’s busty, drawling hooker Lilah (Fox), who has a sneer of gold, and Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich), Hex’s arch enemy. And there’s some sort of plot about a superweapon that involves shooting big cannon balls and then shooting a little orange glowing ball that “activates” them. Why not just shoot explosive cannon balls? Your guess is as good as ours.
None of this is as fun as it sounds, because Hayward directs with a heavy hand when the occasional wink is called for. The script is from Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who showed some sense of humor about their violence in Crank. Given rumors of reshoots and extensive editing, it’s hard to know how much to blame them for the jumbled mess this has become. But there’s blame enough to go around.