Movie review: Fun ‘Jonah Hex’ sticks to its comic book roots
Not a heck of a lot of time is spent explaining things in “Jonah Hex,” the movie adaptation of the DC Comic character who’s been around since the early 1970s. There have been changes in the character over the years, but as played here by Josh Brolin, he’s a post-Civil War former Confederate soldier-turned bounty hunter.
He’s fast on the draw, can actually dodge bullets, is able to briefly bring the dead to life, and is on the run from the law. He’s also had his face redesigned with a branding iron by the nefarious Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), another former Reb, who hates Jonah’s guts.
But Turnbull is more than one man’s simple enemy. He’s presented as a kind of 19th-century terrorist who has plans to destroy Washington, D.C., with the aid of a special weapon purportedly designed by Eli Whitney, of cotton gin fame.
It’s right around this point in the story, when President Grant (Aidan Quinn) declares that “only Jack Bauer ... err, I mean only Jonah Hex can stop him,” that the film goes for the full flavor of its comic book roots.
With a government pardon in it if he takes the job (his crimes are vaguely explained halfway through the film), and with that job, including getting revenge on Turnbull, Hex says yes. He jumps on his trusty horse, Horse, and says “C’mon boy” to his loyal, nameless dog, and checks in with his on again-off again squeeze, Lilah (Megan Fox), the beautiful, tough-as-nails hooker who’s as handy with her fists and a gun as Hex.
This is a really dark movie with a very dry sense of humor that gets some pretty big laughs, many of them revolving around what happens each time someone stares at Hex and says, “Hey, what happened to your face?” That’s one motif. Others involve lots of explosions and a parade of buildings going up in flames. And that special weapon? It’s a doozy! There’s some confusing stuff that pops up a couple of times and could probably be rationalized as alternate universes coming together and bouncing off one another. That was about as easy to figure out as Hex’s special powers, and I still don’t understand either one.
But this is a live-action comic book with shoot-em-up comic book sensibilities. Everything works, even if it doesn’t make total sense. My only real complaint is that the film runs a mere 81 minutes. I was having a pretty good time, and wish it lasted a bit longer.
Oddly, it’s the second film directed by Jimmy Hayward. His first – talk about your opposite poles – was the animated “Horton Hears a Who!” I’m very much looking forward to whatever he chooses to do next.
JONAH HEX (PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and sexual content.) Cast includes Josh Brolin, John Malkovich and Megan Fox. 2.5 stars out of 4.
The Patriot Ledger