Movies: Jonah Hex **
(15A, general release)
When a movie's stars start breaking ranks and giving out about it before it's even been released, you know you're in trouble.
Inspired by a DC Comics character of the same name and assembled in some confusion and acrimony, Jonah Hex bears all the scars of a troubled history involving several changes of producer and director and prolonged uncertainty over who was going to play the lead.
Casting, in fact, is one of the few things this production got right, and with a calmer head and a much better script, an entertaining action film could easily have ensued.
Josh Brolin is Jonah Hex, a former Confederate soldier who became a remorseless bounty hunter after watching his wife and child get killed as a punishment for disobeying a mad superior's order. That officer is Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), and when Hex finds out he's still alive and planning new atrocities, he reluctantly joins forces with the Union Army to bring down Turnbull and his gang.
Among his many gifts, Hex has the power to communicate with the dead, and, during the course of the film, has a series of pithy chats with the lately murdered.
Megan Fox plays a saloon hooker and Hex's squeeze, Aidan Quinn is President Ulysses S Grant, and Michael Fassbender has fun playing a shantie-humming Kerry henchman.
None of these actors do anything wrong, but the film lacks all semblance of structure or coherent arc, the story is too thin to suffice for even 80 minutes, and the yarn is resolved with such messy haste that it leaves the audience feeling rather shabbily treated.