Jonah Hex is most certainly a movie… and as much as I wish I could end my review there, I feel that I must elaborate.
In the ever-expanding genre of comic book movies, Jonah Hex has a comfortable home.
The film is an idyllic romp around the lawless American west with a charismatic drifter as its guide. The lead character, Jonah Hex, is modeled after DC Comics cowboy antihero, though audiences familiar with the 1970s character will discover that details surrounding Jonah–including his viciously scarred face– have been altered to fit the plot of the movie.
Hex, who is played with elegant repose by the very talented Josh Brolin, pilots the audience through the harrowing adventures of a confederate soldier-turned-renegade, lead mostly by honor, in his effort to save the Union he once fought to destroy. After discovering the history of the man, this late 19th Century bounty hunter is called into action by the American government to stop a nation-ending plot. Fueled by revenge, Jonah Hex seeks out his arch nemesis, Quentin Turnbull, to foil his deadly scheme.
John Malkovich, in the role of Turnbull–the original terrorist–carries a sinister but sophisticated demeanor throughout the film. Malkovich’s sincere abilities and straight-forward delivery are somewhat undone, however, by the one-dimensional script which stops him short of achieving the detail needed to make Turnbull anything more than a cookie-cutter comic-book-movie villain.
The missing star from the above description is Megan Fox, who plays the sexy prostitute Lilah. The reason she’s left out of the basic description is that her role is little more than forced into the film. Her scantily clad slender frame left me wondering less whether the character would do more than pretty up the otherwise ugly film, but more if craft services shouldn’t be required to force feed the talent (I mean seriously, can someone get this girl a sandwich?)
As comic book characters go, Jonah Hex is a fascinating study–he’s the Captain America of the Wild West, whose tragic flaw, his revenge lust, serves as his only fuel. A walking zombie with blood and Native American magic coursing through his veins, he believes in the good intentions of the dead over the cheating, lying objectives of the living.
The most disappointing element of the feature film is how Jonah Hex clings like a baby to its formula. In a field of action films, Hex is typical–nothing more, nothing less. I understand when delivering to its intended audience, filmmakers fear delivering less; but as an audience member with no expectations, I was hoping to be served up a little more.
That said, the movie does deliver some big action and a few laughs. It’s stunted eighty minutes keeps the movie from wandering off in any direction away from the plot for more than a split second and Brolin’s character command is something worth watching. Fans of the comic book genre shouldn’t be too disappointed… if their expectations aren’t too great, that is.