Jonah Hex was a movie that appeared on 2,825 movie screens in the United States. And that’s the most positive thing I could say about it.
Based on the DC Comics character in the same way that feces is essentially based on food, Josh Brolin stars as the titular gunslinger with a seriously messed-up face. We drop in on events just as Hex is about to have that face messed up and his family burned to death by the villainous villain of villainy…John Malkovich! This could actually be cool, except that Malkovich plays his character so straight, so toneless, that there is no menace at all. Malkovich’s character kills hundreds of innocent civillians, and yet I think he was actually more intimidating in Secretariat.
Anyway, Hex is left for dead and thus begins a poorly-drawn semi-animated segment reminding us that THIS IS BASED ON A COMIC! Also, members of the Crow Nation take him in and nurse him back to health for no reason that’s ever explained. I guess because it’s too stereotypical to have Natives be the bad guys now…so it’s better for them to patch their oppressors back up? Who knows! Anyway, as a result of his near-death experience, Hex gains the ability to talk to the dead. Armed with this incredible power, Hex sets out to set things right. And by “set things right,” I mean burn down every town he comes across. It’d almost have a Pale Rider vibe going if Hex actually knew any of the people in the town he was burning. I mean, there are anti-heroes, and then there are anti-heroes who have gatling guns mounted to their horse. So then he gets…wait…what the fuck did I just say?!
Wow. Okay. Now even Iron Sky seems plausible.
So after Hex burns down Petticoat Junction, and Malkovich blows up the train from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, we cut to a scene with President Grant talking to Will Arnett of all people. From their hackneyed exposition, we find out that Malkovich has stolen some incredible super-weapon that could very well ruin the upcoming Centennial festivities…and also lay waste to the entire nation. Grant somehow believes that Hex is the key to stopping the madness, Arnett disagrees, and then Grant actually puts the fate of the country in Hex’s hands. He says it. He actually says, “fate…in his hands.” In this day and age!
Then we meet up with Megan Fox in what is one of the most textured, nuanced, and powerful performances of a career teeming with memorable and superior performances. Nah, I’m kidding, she plays a whore with only the barest hint of a connection or impact to the plot. That, and she’s constantly filmed in soft-focus and then seemingly air-brushed on top of that, which seems excessive for a mid-20s actress whose only apparent talent is that she’s easy on the eyes. Anyway, she and Hex have a thing, I guess. They fuck. He tells her anyone who stays with him dies. It’s really romantic.
Hex gets drafted into the Army so he can track down Malkovich, and after interviewing a couple of dead gentlemen and burning down a few more villages for good measure, he visits a black man named Smith who is…wait for it…a blacksmith! Ha ha haaa haa haaaaa!!! RACISM OVER. Armed with Smith’s dynamite-firing crossbows, Hex storms Fort Resurrection and kills like 50 guys before he takes two shotgun blasts square in the chest, but manages to escape on his horse. Thus begins the SECOND TIME that Natives bring him back from the dead. And if it’s unexplained once, it’s downright incomprehensible twice. Especially after Hex vomits up a crow and it flies away.
Since the Puke-Crow apparently told Hex the secret location of the one dude he really hates, Hex charges off into battle with no plan to speak of. Shit explodes. Will Arnett buys the farm. Megan Fox shows up and tries her best to look like she’s being helpful. Hex growls and hallucinates and burns down a ship instead of a town for once, which is probably the film’s biggest surprise.
The day saved, and the nation’s fate restored, Grant tries to make Hex…Sheriff of America? Hex actually has to tell the President that America does not have a Sheriff, which probably should have been followed by a scene where Hex tucks Grant in for the night and reads him a bedtime story.
So with that, I can easily say that of all the films named Jonah Hex you will see this year, this is — by far — that film.