Movie Review: Jonah Hex
By Tom Houseman
June 21, 2010
As a lover of action films, I am always excited to see a movie that truly wows me, and this weekend Jonah Hex had me walking out of the theater with a big wow. From the very first trailer, I thought that this movie looked awesome, and I decided to ignore the reviews and give it a shot. I went in expecting dumb summertime escapist fun with some cool action sequences, and not only was I not disappointed, I was actually surprised by how much better Jonah Hex was than I expected.
As far as films that are completely defined by the action in them, not many beat Jonah Hex. A train robbery near the beginning, which included men on horseback, some well-placed dynamite, and a few bad guys disguised as soldiers, was an incredible experience, and is further proof that Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are the William Goldman of action movies; nobody does it better than these guys, who made a splash with Crank and continue to wow me with every film they write.
Jonah Hex is a dark film, an angry film, and with good reason. Its titular character (played by Josh Brolin) is a former Confederate soldier whose near death experience left him with a strange connection to the underworld. He is bent on getting revenge on another soldier, Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich) who killed Hex’s family in front of him. In his quest Hex finds himself working for the U.S. government, which is trying to stop Turnbull from unleashing a terrifying weapon on the country on the Fourth of July.
Neveldine and Taylor have a gift for developing fights and chases that are truly breathtaking, and handing the directing duties to Jimmy Hayward did not detract from their skill. These aren’t your typical Michael Bay action scenes, in that they won’t have you laughing and cheering. These scenes are so aggressive, so confrontational, that you almost feel that you are the one being attacked. The last film that boasted such incredible action sequences was Neveldine/Taylor’s last film, Gamer, and before that I’d have to go back to 2006, to Timur Bekmambetov’s Day Watch, another film that made up for its shortcomings with brilliant visuals.
Yes, there is a plot in this film, and honestly, it’s not that interesting, leaving you waiting for the next bout of explosions and gunshots. Particularly at the beginning, the film has serious pacing problems, which makes it feel longer than its svelte 80 minutes. Had the relationships been better developed, Jonah Hex might have been a very good movie, but instead they’re glossed over. But the hatred between Hex and Turnbull is woefully shallow, and we barely get to know prostitute Lilah (Megan Fox) at all beyond the fact that she hates being a prostitute and loves Jonah.
What keeps the film going between the action is the performances, and without them Jonah Hex wouldn’t be worth watching. Josh Brolin is always a commanding presence on screen and takes complete control of the film. His terrifying glare is mesmerizing and you can’t tear your eyes away from him. Surprisingly, Megan Fox matches him beat for beat in the scenes they share, proving that she has truly matured as an actress. She owns her character and shows no fear, an attitude that we first saw of her in Jennifer’s Body. Her effortless onscreen grace and power prove that, in the right hands, she could turn out to be a very good actress.
In fact, there is not a single bad performance in the film, and with the exception of an out-of-place Will Arnett, every major actor is great. The most memorable performance, not surprisingly, is Michael Fassbender, who made a splash in the indie scene with his performance in Hunger. He gets the role of the psychotic supporting villain and does not waste it, stealing every scene he is in.
But you’re going to see this movie for the action, and you are going to be impressed by what you see. Every sequence is brilliantly crafted by Neveldine and Taylor and beautifully executed by Hayward. Every sound is overpowering and perfectly augmented by Marco Beltrami’s incendiary score. It seems like the only holds barred were those barred by the MPAA, as some moments are truly outrageous and shocking. If there was a little meat to the story, Jonah Hex would have been a very good movie, but I was perfectly satisfied with the memorable action extravaganza that it was.