With the ability to talk to dead people, avoid bullets just by leaning out of the way, and somehow drink whiskey even though half his face is missing, Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) might not seem like your typical hero.
But then again, the movie (clocking in at a surprisingly-brief hour-and-20-minutes) is a little “out there” itself.
Based on the late 70s DC Comics series, it tells the tale of a man out for mega-vengeance after he’s forced to watch his family die at the hands of the evil Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich). And if that weren’t enough, Turnbull also gives Hex a fabulous parting gift– a red-hot brand pressed to the side of his face.
Of course, this all leaves no doubt in your mind that Turnbull will, as they say, get his. So the movie’s fate rests solely on the quality of the journey from point A to point B.
Directed by Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who! No, that’s not a misprint) with a screenplay by Neveldine & Taylor (Crank, Gamer), Jonah Hex is a rather fun over-the-top satire of Westerns and comic books. The cast & crew’s tongues remain firmly planted in their cheeks for the duration of the film, which helps keep it from eroding into a silly knockoff of any number of revenge movies.
Hex, a former confederate soldier turned bounty hunter, is hired by President Ulysses S. Grant (Aidan Quinn) to track down and kill the very man Hex has already vowed vengeance on. Turnbull, you see, is plotting a particularly massive terrorist attack on Washington D.C. during the nation’s 100th anniversary party. Along the way Hex gets shot, does some shooting (and killing), and visits his former flame, the town hooker Lilah (Megan Fox).
Brolin, sporting a rather nasty scar throughout, has a ball playing Hex. He delivers each line with a Batman-like, gravel-y snarl and never gets his pulse going any more than yours would after sitting around for a few hours. Malkovich, on the other hand, builds Turnbull so full of gusto and psychopathic badness that he becomes a satire of many of his own characters, including Mitch, the killer from In the Line of Fire, and Cyrus from Con Air. (Fox, meanwhile, and her heaving, glistening chest are only on screen for a total of 10 minutes. She’s harmless.)
While Jonah Hex succeeds on a several levels, it isn’t perfect by any means. Some of the casting was fairly headscratch-worthy, including Will Arnett (Arrested Development, Blades of Glory) as a buttoned-down, super-serious army officer. The score, by heavy metal band Mastodon, was over-powering on more than one occasion, and director Hayward blew it by not incorporating more of the comic-book-style art (featured perfectly in the opening credits) throughout the rest of the movie.
In the end Jonah Hex will easily distract you for a bit. It’s a good time and a fun send-up of the superhero genre (and even if you don’t like it, you’ve only really wasted 80 minutes of your life.)