“Joooonah Hex.” If you plan on seeing this movie, get used to hearing that. A lot. Also, buckle your proverbial seat belt because they really hammer this one out at breakneck speed. At 80 minutes, “Jonah Hex,” based on the comic book by the same name, feels like a visual Cliffs Notes. The story is condensed and hurried; edited as if it were one long trailer. Nearly every line is a one-liner. This is one of those rare instances where I wish the filmmakers had actually taken more time to let things unfold. Mind you, it’s not a complex story. It’s easy enough to follow if you can keep up.
Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) is a soldier-turned-bounty hunter who fought for the South in the Civil War. After a series of terrorist attacks, the U.S. government offers Hex a pardon if he can capture the man behind them, Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich). Given that Turnbull is also behind both the death of Hex’s family and the love letter on his face, he can’t pass up the opportunity to finally get revenge on his archenemy. Aiding him in his quest is Lilah (Megan Fox), a hooker with the heart of a hooker. He also has a sort of superpower that allows him to talk to the dead. But it doesn’t really come up much.
Performance-wise, “Jonah Hex” is generally entertaining. The script is by no means Shakespeare, but everyone seems to be having a pretty good time. Josh Brolin plays a grizzled cowboy with ease, grimacing and grunting his way through the vaguely supernatural old west. John Malkovich occasionally attempts a southern accent as he recalls his cartoon bad guy role from “Rounders.” Wes Bentley hilariously camps up a small role as a southern dandy with wacky sideburns. Surprisingly, Will Arnett plays a straight man role as a Lieutenant but it’s impossible to take anything he says seriously. Maybe it’s the voice but I don’t think he’ll ever be able to fully exercise Gob Bluth from his line readings.
And Megan Fox is… Well, she serves her purpose, anyway. She delivers every line in a breathy monotone, all silicone fish lips and chest cavity cleavage. There appears to be Vaseline smeared on the lens in all of her shots. Her porn star acting feels a little out of place next to the gritty Brolin. They are so unbelievable as a couple that their scenes together feel more like a buddy comedy than a steamy partnership. But she was clearly hired in a boner-inducing capacity and, though she’s not my cup of tea, the Maxim readers in the audience will get along just fine.
Despite a few weird plot points, such as Eli Whitney (famed inventor of the cotton gin!) being accidentally responsible for creating the weapon that would destroy the world, the plot is fairly formulaic. You know exactly who Jonah has to fight and in what order he’ll face them. You also know that he will get a good ass kicking before he can end it once and for all. Megan Fox will fish lip around and fire some guns whilst her boobs threaten to pop out of her bustier. You’ll be subjected to quip after quip as bad guys fall and wise black men smile at fireworks. Most importantly, stuff is going to blow the hell up. The dynamite budget on this film must have been insane.
“Jonah Hex” is only OK, but it probably could have been kind of good if only they’d dwelled a little more on the supernatural elements. Jonah came back from the dead and all he got was the power of corpse interrogation. Fortunately, he was already pretty good with a pistol. Though there are a couple of cool special effects including a scene in which Jonah, while being saved from the brink of death by Native Americans again, vomits up a live crow. The costumes, apparently purchased from the Cowboy Hot Topic, lend the film a somewhat stylized look. But, for the most part, it’s a straightforward western tale wherein a morally ambiguous guy hunts a morally bankrupt guy and lots of other guys die in the process. It’s definitely a good film for summer escapism, but beyond that, you’re basically in for a poor man’s “Brisco County Jr.” episode.