Jonah Hex (2010)

2011 #59
Jimmy Hayward | 81 mins | Blu-ray | 15 / PG-13

Jonah HexJonah Hex is not a good film. Let’s just establish that, before I start being nice about it.

In fact, you don’t need me to be nasty about it — there are plenty of reviews that do that already. Those I’ve read are largely accurate. Despite that, I kind of liked the film, and not because I wanted to. I’ve read a few of the recent comics and enjoyed them, but this version isn’t really like those — they’re straight Westerns, whereas this iteration returns to a supernaturally-tinged version of the comics from some time in the past.

It’s difficult to know where to begin trying to praise Hex because, as I’ve implied, there isn’t much to praise. Unless you’re a 12-year-old boy, that is. Horses with Gatling guns! Giant cannons firing explosive balls! Corpses coming to life! Megan Fox’s corset-boosted cleavage! The undemanding pre-/early-teen is well catered for here. Possibly the undemanding child-minded adult too. I don’t think that’s why I enjoyed it though.

The movie is unrelentingly comic book, if one can use “comic book” as an adjective. Look at that last paragraph again: horses with Gatling guns? The physics of that boggles. But it has a certain Cool. The same for the ridiculously huge cannon that fires some kind of magic exploding cannonball. It doesn’t make historical sense, or even modern-science sense, but it is… well, it’s a Big Gun that makes things Blow Up. Awesome! A horse. With Gatling guns.Much of the film rattles on in this way. And rattle it does: 73 minutes before credits. As blockbuster running times spiral out of control, such brevity is almost welcome. It doesn’t feel exceptionally short, mind, except for when the plot occasionally jumps forward.

As the lead, Josh Brolin growls along marvellously. He deserves a better film. The character does too, actually. The President wants him to save America; he doesn’t care, except for that the person who needs stopping murdered Hex’s wife and child. Handy coincidence, that. There’s surely some drama to be wrung from that situation — grief, vengeance, all sorts — though no one involved seems to know how to go about it properly. The closest we get is a weird dreamy hallucinogenic fistfight. You’re right, that’s no substitute, but I did say closest.

John Malkovich does what he does as said villain. He’s been worse. Michael Fassbender is completely wasted as a henchman. I hope he was well paid. Megan Fox isn’t in it much. Her prostitute character, Hex’s new lover, is woefully underwritten and underused, turning up now and then to further the plotMegan Fox. Who has breasts. — usually improbably — or generally be a female. By “female” I mean “cleavage delivery device”. Considering her acting ability, her lack of presence is no real shame.

Jonah Hex isn’t good enough to be a guilty pleasure (like, say, The Transporter), nor bad enough to qualify as so-bad-it’s-good (like, say, Flesh for Frankenstein). Yet, while being fully aware it’s rubbish, I enjoyed myself. Not a massive amount, but a bit. Maybe it is one of those after all, then. It has a certain kind of B-movie charm, which is then intriguingly undercut by the A-list budget/promotion and awards-worthy cast. If it had been shot in Italy in the ’60s, a certain kind of person might just love it. Shot in America in the ’00s, however, its appeal probably lies with 12-year-old boys and… well, me, clearly.

2 out of 5

A week of vengeance

You may have noticed that I’ve been thoroughly backed-up with reviews to post this year. This week I’ve decided to tackle that situation with a vengeance.

Or you could say “with vengeance”, because I noticed that a few of the films on my stack of unreviewed titles have vengeance as a central theme. Better than just posting a review a day is to post a review a day with a linking theme, I thought, so each day this week I’ll be posting a new review of a film about vengeance. That doesn’t mean I’ve particularly drawn out this link in the reviews, but there you go.

The films I’ve picked out (from this list, of course) are British thriller Harry Brown, flop comic book Western Jonah Hex, classic ’70s Western High Plains Drifter, and violent action-thriller Law Abiding Citizen. And on Friday, hopefully, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which I don’t think is about revenge (not watched it yet, hence “hopefully”) but is on telly from Friday night. [2015 edit: Scott Pilgrim didn’t happen. Still not watched it, actually.]

That’s not the extent of the vengeance-themed films on my “to do” list, even — there’s also True Grit, but I’m saving that for when I get round to the Coens’ remake. [2015 edit: also didn’t happen.] Is this number of revenge films a coincidence, or do I like a dose of revenge, or is it just a common film theme generally? Such questions beg more thought than I’m going to give them this week. Sorry.

Anyway, I just wanted to draw attention to this thread as it gets underway. Sometimes my madness does have a plan y’know.