Legendary Pictures, 2010, rated PG-13.
When all is said and done, Jonah Hex may not be the most incoherent action movie to hit screens this year, but it will probably be the most forgettable. Josh Brolin, deserving of a better script, is somewhat interesting delivering one-liners as the scarred and ghostly title character. The comic book– stylized opening credits, a malicious Irish henchman (Michael Fassbender) and foxy Megan Fox’s wardrobe are all eye-openers; but they are soon outdone by rapid-fire, exploding arrows, snake men and little orange globes that have the explosive power to level an underdeveloped Washington, D.C. By the time we see John Malkovich (who plays Turnbull, an ex-Confederate general with a super weapon) yawning to his minions for the final time to “Kill Jonah Hex,” the audience has long since realized this movie is an utter snoozefest.
I refer to Jonah Hex as an “action movie” rather than a “Western” for two reasons: 1) The scenes take place impurely on the East Coast (in the great deserts of the Southeast, for instance); and 2) I don’t want to be forced into reevaluating my pick for the “Worst Western of All Time.” That said, Jonah Hex takes place during the 1876 U.S. centennial and revolves around the vengeful Turnbull, who plans to take down the Union with his weapon of mass destruction (the orange globes). For help, President U.S. Grant (Aidan Quinn) turns to mythical bounty hunter Jonah Hex, who previously fell victim to Turnbull’s wrath. Hex is immortal, can speak to the dead, has an arsenal of mighty illogical weapons and is hell-bent on revenge. Good choice, Mr. President! Lilah (Fox), a prostitute in love with Hex (for reasons unexplained), gets caught up in this mess because Turnbull knows she loves Hex (for reasons unexplained), knows exactly where she lives (for reasons unexplained) and kidnaps her (for reasons…oh wait, I know this one: so Hex can save her by the closing credits).
Hampered by rewrites and reshoots and tethered to a PG-13 rating, Jonah Hex runs only 80 minutes—this is no There Will Be Blood. In this case, the length is fine; however, it would have been nice to see one or two more scenes that draw some emotion out of the actors…perhaps one in which we get to see Malkovich earn his paycheck for this “Western.”
Originally published in the October 2010 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.