Jonah Hex – the review

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It was with serious trepidation that I went to see the new Jonah Hex movie last night.  Sure, the tickets were free, but still.  Did the world really need a Jonah Hex movie?

Hex is an interesting choice for a movie.  In the right hands (Joe R. Lansdale) Hex works wonderfully.  He can be used to tell true western and/or western/horror tales.  In the wrong hands?  Well, he’s just a bounty hunter with a weird scar.

I liked that they didn’t really feel the need to tell a complete origin tale with this movie.  We got a brief flashback origin and then got right into the action.

Hex, a disgraced Confederate solider, plies his trade as a bounty hunter.  He makes use of his speed, big guns and ugly mug to get by in Reconstruction era America.

Our plot revolves around a plot by Hex’s nemesis, Quentin Turnbull, to use a turn of the century doomsday weapon to bring about the end of the USA during the country’s centennial celebration.  Any parallels to modern America are strictly intentional.

Josh Brolin plays the titular character with an accent borrowed from Slingblade’s Karl Childers.  He’s given very little in the way of character development to work with.  His most engaging moments come when he uses his power to commune with the dead (givent to him by a generous medicine man).  Watching Hex bargain with the dead makes me long for what might have been.

Of course, if you’ve seen any commercials for the movie, you know America’s favorite blow up doll, Megan Fox, is in Hex as well.  She plays the obligatory “hooker with a heart of, if not gold, then at least, copper,” and Hex’s de facto love interest.  Her assets, and by that I don’t mean acting chops, are kept sweaty and prominently displayed.  That she appears sparingly is the only thing that keeps her presence tolerable.

The villain of the piece, Quentin Turnbull, is played by John Malkovich.  Turnbull is at least given an odd motivation for his plan to destroy America.  He’s a disgraced Confederate general whose son was killed by Hex during a gunfight.  Malkovich is in full crazy/bad mode.  He’s not as interesting as, say, Cyrus the Virus or Valmont.  No, he’s just crazy guy with bald mullet.

The film is slight, running only 80 minutes.  I actually think that helps it in the long run.  The action moves along and you aren’t treated to any unnecessary exposition or plotlines.  It just moves along.  In all honesty, this reminded me of a SyFy made-for-tv movie.  That probably would have been a better goal.  Of course, then Hex would have been played by Billy Baldwin or Luke Perry.  Nobody wins there.

One thing I did enjoy was the score from the metal band Mastadon.  Their music seemed to really capture the mood I think they were trying for without seeming anachronistic.

There were some interesting smaller roles, such as Will Arnett as an officious Union solider who believes his “intelligence network” will do a better job of finding Turnbull than Hex.  Aidan Quinn, a long time personal favorite, has a good go  as Ulysses Grant.  Wes Bentley shows up in mutton chops as Southern dandy feedng information to Turnbull.  And keep an eye out for Rance Howard as a telegraph operator.

The most puzzling co-star was  Jeffrey Dean Morgan who, once again, plays a dead guy driving the action much as he did in Watchmen and Grey’s Anatomy.  Jeff, you’re going to get yourself typecast dude.  Break out.  Shoot an action flick.  Make a romantic comedy.  Hell, just be alive in something.

Overall, Jonah Hex is a misfire.  I’ve read that the original script had a much more western/horror feel to it.  I think that would have really helped set this movie apart.  As it is, Jonah Hex is a western revenge flick and a mediocre one at that.

Its not the worst comic book movie I’ve ever seen.  I’m still looking at you Daredevil and Ang Lee’s Hulk.  But in a world full of Iron Mans and Dark Knights, you can’t throw something like this in the megaplex and hope it sells.

It doesn’t.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Stephe says:

    Better than Hulk 1 and Daredevil…way to set the bar on the floor.

    But how does it stack up against the ‘Dr. Strange’ movie from the 70’s?

  2. Chris says:

    Sir, very well done. You’ve got some critic chops there man. My favorite passages included the M. Fox paragraph and the advice to JDM.

    But #1 was: “In all honesty, this reminded me of a SyFy made-for-tv movie. That probably would have been a better goal. Of course, then Hex would have been played by Billy Baldwin or Luke Perry. Nobody wins there.”

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