With Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, John Malkovich, Aidan Quinn, Will Arnett. Directed by Jimmy Hayward. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and sexual content. 81 minutes.
Maybe this reviewer is still recovering from the sheer stupidity of “The A Team,” but JONAH HEX, the movie version of the supernatural western comic book, isn’t as brainless as it might have been. Not that anyone should confuse this with a good movie, but at 81 minutes it features plenty of violence, plus Megan Fox in a corset. Throw in a bag of popcorn, and – for action fans – that’s entertainment.
The chief problem with the film is that even at its brief running time it seems padded. We get the origin of Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) twice, and his showdown with his arch foe Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich) has to take place both in reality and in a dream state. Hex’s backstory is complicated. In brief, Turnbull blames Hex for killing his son – which he did – and so in return kills Hex’s wife and son, and then brands his face. Near death, Hex is saved by the Crow Indians who give him the power to briefly revive and speak to the dead.
Now Turnbull, a Southern officer for whom the Civil War never ended, has stolen the ultimate weapon and is planning to destroy Washington, D.C. on July 4, 1876. President Grant (Aidan Quinn) calls on Hex to save the day. Somehow, a feisty prostitute who loves Hex (Megan Fox in the aforementioned corset) gets involved in the story as well.
It plays a lot like the old TV series “The Wild, Wild West,” and much better than the dreadful Will Smith movie version. Add in a bit of “Ghost Whisperer” and Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns and you have a good sense of what’s going on here. It doesn’t have the style of Sergio Leone’s movies with Eastwood but doesn’t sink under the weight of the special effects the way “Wild, Wild West” did. Both Brolin and Malkovich chew the scenery, which is really the only way to play such over-the-top characters, while Quinn and Will Arnett, as a modern military official who relies on technology, do what they can to play it straight. As for Megan Fox, she wears a corset.
Although we get cadavers that come back to life, and Hex’s scarred face, there’s not much gore here, but there is a tremendous amount of violence. The editing spares us the details, but the body count is tremendous. This is not the movie to go see with the kids if “Toy Story 3” gets sold out. It’s the casualness of the carnage that’s most disturbing. Both Hex and Turnbull kill without a second thought and it’s not surprising when a character who knows them both notes there’s not much difference between them. We in the audience are supposed to take solace in the fact that Hex is the “good guy.”
While “Jonah Hex” is a lightweight movie that will be little noted, its fast pace and hero who dares you to find anything likable about him makes this disposable entertainment for those so inclined.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.