After a few minutes, I was already prepared to quit watching Jonah Hex. At this point, bounty hunter Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) had already been scarred for life, been in an action scene in which he used Gatling guns mounted on his horse to kill a bunch of people who wanted him dead. And then he went to a bar, shot a man who looked at him funny, and then met up with someone who I can only assume is his girlfriend, and is played by Megan Fox. All of this happened, and I was already tired. If only I knew what was coming.
The plot ends up having Hex recruited by the American government. The man who scarred Hex, a man who he had believed to be dead, is apparently very much alive. He’s prepping a super weapon that is supposed to be able to destroy almost anything that it is pointed at. The government decides that Hex is the only man who can stop this from happening, and gets the chance to enact revenge on the man who left him scarred for life.
The main gimmick in Jonah Hex is Hex’s ability to communicate with the deceased. Apparently almost dying gives you this ability. Nobody else can see this happening though, so it’s entirely possible that when Hex claims that he “wasn’t all brought back,” that he’s talking about his mental state, and that he is actually hallucinating when talking to the dead. Either way, he does this enough times to make it noteworthy, and these interrogations are interesting enough.
There are two good things about Jonah Hex. It’s a very short film, which means that if you choose to watch it, you don’t have to waste that much of your time. The other good thing is Josh Brolin, who almost makes you forget the terrible parts of the film. He loses himself in his character, even though he plays a generic macho, determined to get revenge, archetypal, character.
The other characters are even better definitions of the word “stock.” Fox’s character is the standard “hooker with a good heart,” the villains are “wise-cracking lunatics,” and that’s about all the people in the film. Nobody except for Hex gets a back-story or explanation, and we are expected to just accept that the relationships are already established. I didn’t care, so that was not hard to accept.
While Brolin is entertaining enough as an actor, nobody else in the film was any good. There’s a game you can play while watching the film: Try and figure out who has the worst phony accent. My pick goes to Megan Fox, who, gives a slightly better shot at being a real actor here than she did in Transformers, makes it painfully obvious that she is out of her element when on-screen with Brolin — something that happens about as often as the script would allow, likely just to give the audience some form of eye-candy.
Not even the action scenes are that entertaining. The early ones are the best, and the film continues losing steam as it progresses. Brolin on a horse with mounted Gatling guns is an interesting idea, and it’s kind of fun to watch. But that lasts for a few seconds, and then it is over. Hex is a good shot, to be sure, but that also makes the action scenes less interesting; we’re already fairly certain who’s going to win, even when Hex gets shot multiple times in the chest.
Among the things not explained is some of the technology available to Mr. Hex. Those Gatling guns certainly wouldn’t have been invented in a society where the telegraph is still widely used. But nobody is shocked to see them, apart from the fact that those he aims them at are certain they will die. Bystanders don’t question them. And then there is this big weapon that has been in construction for years. How has nobody done anything about it up until now? We don’t get to find out.
Something I liked about the film, its length, may end up being one of its biggest problems as well. There is no time for anything to be explained, no time for character development, no time for proper pacing, and no time for an actual story to be told. The plot is too basic to matter, and ends up with Brolin just going from place to place, interrogating dead bodies, before ending up in Washington, turning the film from a Western into a large-scale shootout on a boat.
Jonah Hex is a film that needed something better than a strong lead actor. Josh Brolin gives it his all, but the rest of the film doesn’t live up to his screen presence. Not that he’s playing a unique character, as he’s all archetypes, but at least he commanded my attention. Everything else falls flat. The best thing about it is that it only takes about 75 minutes to finish, meaning you won’t waste much time if you decide to watch it. Thank goodness for that, because any longer and you might find yourself wishing to be able to be interrogated by Hex himself.