'Hex' Is Cursed
Mary Pols, Special to MSN Movies
"This here is my story." Land sakes, I hate it when a story starts like that, all fake folksy. That's what "Jonah Hex" does, and never, not for a second, does it get better. Now, I'm no Western comic book-born, bounty-hunting star like Jonah (Josh Brolin) or nothin', just the hired hand brought in to critique this here thing director Jimmy Hayward ("Horton Hears a Who!") calls a movie. I call this adaptation of DC Comics 1970s and '80s comics more of a travesty. Emotionally, it's the emptiest movie of the year, cinematic space occupied primarily by flying axes, kegs of dynamite and fancy guns I don't think they really had back then in the year of America's centennial in 1876, when "Jonah Hex" is set. I call the fact that this compilation of vaporizations of human beings is rated PG-13 a disgrace to the Motion Picture Association of America's rating board. It should be rated not suitable for anyone, except people who really need punishing. Maybe Obama could arrange a special screening for the folks at British Petroleum.
The movie is laughable, but it's not funny, not even in a camp way. It has a homegrown-terrorist theme, which explains why that nasty piece of work Timothy McVeigh kept coming to mind (never a good sign). Seems like "Jonah Hex" would have been his cup of tea. McVeigh could have related to the methods and madness of Jonah's arch nemesis, a lunatic and former Confederate colonel named Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), whose nickname is "terrorista." Turnbull has it in for America, and plans to unleash a "nation-ending" weapon (whatever that is) on Washington come the Fourth of July. This supposed weapon looks like a nuclear submarine that spits golden bowling balls. Whatever charge is derived from creating fictions where our forefathers can be given better weaponry than they actually had seems truly perverse and pathetic.
From the thoroughly muddled storytelling, I was able to discern that Jonah, once under Turnbull's command, turned him in for some dastardly deed and this led to Turnbull's soldier son being killed. To get Jonah back, Turnbull burned Jonah's wife and child to death in front of him -- a scene Hayward takes us back to again and again, because how else was he going to get this movie up to its epic length of 81 minutes? Then Turnbull branded the side of Hex's face, turning him into a monster that looks like a Boxer dog with terrible acne scars. (This seems an indecent waste of Josh Brolin.) Thus, when the government needs help reining in Turnbull, they send a posse to find Jonah Hex and enlist his vengeful heart in the effort. He's not going to get federal employee of the month or anything, but he does possess the peculiar and useful gift of being able to converse with the dead. I knew I'd reached the end of my rope when he and one of these dead people say "see you soon" to each other and I felt the stirrings of hope in my heart.
Megan Fox plays a whore in "Jonah Hex," but I'm not going to say anything bad about her, chiefly because her beauty, while seemingly created in the Barbie Factory for Naughty Dolls, at least gives us a brief respite from explosions and looking at John Malkovich in a stringy gray wig. He doesn't play a whore, but his decision to make this movie suggests he is one. It used to be exciting when he played the bad guy ("In the Line of Fire," "Con Air"). Now it's just trite, and all he is is hateful. Turnbull's Irish henchman Burker (Michael Fassbender) is more interesting than he is ... . "Jonah Hex's" generous half star is awarded on behalf of Fassbender and the makeup artists who made me not want to look at Brolin (a feat), for a devotion to their work that certainly exceeded that of the screenwriters.
Mary Pols is a Bay Area-based journalist. She reviews movies for Time.com and was for many years a film critic for the San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times. She is also the author of a memoir, "Accidentally on Purpose," published in 2008 by Ecco/Harper Collins. When she's inspired, usually by something weird, she blogs about it at www.maryfpols.com.