Josh Brolin, Megan Fox Dash Between the Explosions in ‘Jonah Hex’

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CHICAGO – Delving deep into the comic book lexicon, the latest page-to-film adaptation is “Jonah Hex,” featuring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox and John Malkovich. Hex is a scarred bounty hunter whose primary job seems to be saving America, when he isn’t in the midst of or causing things to blow up real good.

The year is 1876, post Civil War and on the cusp of America’s Centennial. In flashback, there is a complex story about a southern Civil War veteran named Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin), who is captured by Union soldiers and marked for execution, but escapes. He was involved in actions that established an horrid enemy, Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich). Turnbull gets back at Hex by executing his family, while Hex is strapped to a cross, Christ-like. After scarring his face with a brand, Turnbull leaves Hex for dead.

An indian tribe find the scarred victim, and recovers him from near death. But during that period, Hex develops a freaky ability to revive any dead corpse and have a conversation with them. This proves to be very handy in his new role as bounty hunter, and Hex develops a reputation as one tough hombre, preferring to keep to himself, except in the company of his favorite brothel-mate, Lilah (Megan Fox).

He’s More Dead Than Alive: Josh Brolin as the Title Character in ‘Jonah Hex’
He’s More Dead Than Alive: Josh Brolin as the Title Character in ‘Jonah Hex’
Photo credit: © Warner Bros. Pictures

When the U.S. government finds out that Quentin Turnbull has his hands on a new super weapon, they enlist the skills of Jonah Hex to stop the terrorist. A game of cat and mouse ensues, with the old wounds of Hex and Turnbull’s rivalry becoming part of the plot to blow up Washington. Even Lilah gets involved as Turnbull wants to kill her just as he did in Hex’s family. The race and the chase is on.

This is a western essentially, with all the swinging saloon doors, fancy “ladies” in corsets and tough guys who shoot first and ask questions later. Hex is a bizarre looking man – he cut Turnbull’s brand off with a hot axe – with a scarred face that features a distinct hole in his left cheek. This, coupled with the loss of his family, creates the perfect western anti-hero. He seeks revenge, but at the same time fights evil in his role as a bounty hunter. This gives him the opportunity to hide behind being “well-paid,” like Humphrey Bogart’s Rick in “Casablanca.”

Setting the film in the post-Civil War era gives it some nice atmosphere, although comic book-like. Will Arnett gives a tight performance as a U.S. officer who aids President Grant (Aidan Quinn), and his presence adds an intentional (or unintentional) humorous air to the proceedings. Michael Fassbender’s Irish character Burke is also a memorable role, as his bowler derby and tattoos give him a wicked super villain persona.

Brolin’s performance as Hex is intense and well acted, despite some clichéd dialogue and seen-it-before action sequences. This is in contrast with Megan Fox, who as a prostitute with several customers a day, still manages to learn all the nuances of weaponry and keep those costumes crisp and revealing. And within the western grit, she manages to find the only teeth whitening service in the territory. Eye candy, thy name is Fox.

The talking to the dead power is pretty cool, especially when they revert back to the corpse after conversation (and luckily Hex has the additional power to burn them), but most of the film, opposite to its notable cast, is just another super villain vs. hero scenario, with sky high explosions tossed in that look really pretty. There is nothing interesting about the main conflict, and director Jimmy Hayward was able to wrap up everything in a scant 80 minutes. Has there been a shorter major summer movie in history?

Our Eyes Like Candy: Megan Fox as Lilah in ‘Jonah Hex’
Our Eyes Like Candy: Megan Fox as Lilah in ‘Jonah Hex’
Photo credit: © Warner Bros. Pictures

Hayward, to both his credit and distress, throws everything at the screen to tell the Hex tale – flashbacks, dream sequences, animation and CGI – at times it works and adds interest. But when it’s bad, as in the dream/fantasy sequence between Hex and Turnbull, it makes the film confusing. There are several times that there may be a “now who’s that guy?” moment, especially when navigating the main story.

This is a film that screams summer marketing rather than art. Comic book hero, check. Name star playing said hero, check. Hot up-and-comer adding sex, check. Lots of explosions, check. The idea that we’ve seen it all before, check and checkmate.

“Jonah Hex” opens everywhere June 18th. Featuring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, John Malkovich, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Aidan Quinn and Michael Fassbinder. written by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor and directed by Jimmy Hayward. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2010 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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