That Jonah Hex is a lousy film is pretty much beyond argument, but there are some easy ways to tell it is a bad film, and the checklist goes something like this:
- Exposition at the beginning of the film is made completely redundant by flashbacks during the movie which repeat the entirety of the exposition. This might be poor editing, so that the creators thought the flashbacks were not clear enough, so they added the exposition at the beginning, when they should have just trusted the audience.
- Numerous scenes, especially in the first half, of the hero walking or riding away from a burning/exploding building.
- Voice over by the main character.
- Only one female character in the whole film.
Now these are flaws which no film has any excuse to suffer from. But in addition to these standards, there are additional weird flaws in this particular film. Jonah has a kind of dream sequence in which he fights his nemesis, and this dream sequence seems to recur during the scene in which Jonah actually fights his nemesis, so that he is more or less fighting in two places at once at the same time. Now, in a comic, this would work fine. I understand what they were trying to do; Hex is sort of on the "astral plane" if you will, fighting his enemy, at the same time as he's fighting in the real world. Xavier and Magneto have done this more than once. But on the comic page you can just split the page in half along the center, or you can use panel borders to show what is in the astral realm and what is in the real, and you can read and re-read in any order you want. But on the screen it's just a messy series of cuts, and it doesn't make the conflict more interesting, it confusing.
Because I did not read the comic, I can totally accept that Jonah Hex can talk to dead people, but the film then cops out by not giving a similar supernatural quality to Hex's adversary. Malkovich's character is believed to be dead, but it turns out he is not, and this should have been because he had somehow escaped death through a curse or bargain with an Indian witch, or something occult like that, and in this bargain he had become some sort of walking dead or something. And then Hex could use his power to animate or torture the dead as a weapon against his enemy, who is dead and thus vulnerable to him in a way a living enemy would not be. But instead Malkovich had simply staged his own death, and he was a normal mortal, and so obviously inferior to the supernatural Hex, and therefore not much of a challenge. The bad guy has to seem stronger than the hero, if you want the conflict to have any kind of tension.
There was one very neat bit in the film. Jonah is nearly killed, and is rescued by convenient Indians, who perform magic over his body to keep him from dying. And the climax of this scene is when death, which has been personified as a black crow, crawls out of Josh Brolin's mouth and flies off. This exorcism of death, out of Hex's body, was very nicely gutsy. Not many movies would try something like that.
And since I only paid $2 for the film, I don't consider myself to have been ripped off.