In a perfect world every superhero would be done justice through feature film. The sad truth is that some characters from the DC and Marvel Comics universes make for more interesting screen protagonists than others. Batman, Superman, Iron Man and Spider-Man reign supreme. Jonah Hex is more toward the bottom with Ghost Rider, Constantine and the Hulk. The character without a doubt has a strong fan base and perhaps some will enjoy his film debut. As for me, I forgot all about this chestnut, brooding antihero the minute I walked out of the theater.
Josh Brolin plays Jonah Hex, who once lived an honest and simple life until he accidentally killed the son of the corrupt Quentin Turnbull, played by John Malkovich. To even the score, Turnbull burns down Hex’s house with his wife and son inside. If that weren’t enough, Turnbull severely brands his right cheek to forever remind Hex of the man who took away everything from him. Hex eventually tracks down Turnbull and avenges the death of his family. With nothing left for Hex, he naturally becomes an outlawed bounty hunter who rides alone.
For a while it looked like Brolin was destined to become a washed-up former child star, not doing much since he played Brand in The Goonies. In recent years though Brolin has made a significant comeback in movies like No Country for Old Men and Milk, for which he received a deserved Oscar nomination. In Jonah Hex Brolin does what he can with the tormented character. There are times in the movie where Brolin exemplifies the persona of a young Harrison Ford. As a matter of fact, there’s one bar scene in which Jonah Hex shoots a drunk then pays the bartender for the mess ala Han Solo in Star Wars. This is a good performance from Brolin. It’s just too bad he isn’t given a very interesting character with which to work.
The closest relationship Hex has is with a prostitute named Lilah, played by Megan Fox. Fox looks just a little too luminous and clean in this movie to play such a character. She has the appearance of a contemporary supermodel playing dress up. Although I’m sure none of the teenage boys who go see this film will have a problem with her casting. They’ll accept her in this role just as they accepted her as a high-school teenager in Transformers.
The problem with Jonah Hex is despite its impractical premise the film takes itself far too seriously. I really must apologize for this criticism because I’ve made the same complaint with other recent action movies. But why play a film like Jonah Hex with a poker face? Seeing how the plot is already so preposterous and the film stars the very funny Will Arnet in a straight performance, why not give Jonah Hex a little more down-to-earth humor? But I suppose if the filmmakers had gone too over-the-top we could have gotten another Wild, Wild West. Yikes!
The movie does have its moments of wit, such as when Hex delivers three dead bodies and a severed head, saying the rest of the fourth man was too fat to carry. Much of the picture though just feels mechanical and mundane. At only 80 minutes, Jonah Hex isn’t overbearingly long. The film is well stylized and is without any offensive violence. The entire experience is just unmemorable and kind of dumb.
Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past five years, reviewing movies on his website, http://www.freewebs.com/radman_ns. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.