By Gary Murray
Starring Josh Brolin, John Malkovich and Megan Fox Written by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Directed by Jimmy Hayward
Running time 80 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
My father was the person who introduced me to the Western. As a kid, we would go to the drive-in and catch the latest flick by John Wayne as long as there were cowboys and horses in the mix. With my two brothers, the family probably saw a few hundred tales of the Old West. I hated every minute of it. But as I have gotten older, I have found an appreciation for the Western genre. The first tales with good guys in white hats and bad guys donning the black ones are a simplistic hoot. The flicks by Master Sam P. showed some of the pathos of the cowpoke and Clint Eastwood envisioned a different style with his trio of Spaghetti Westerns. Lately, the genre has had some strong films with modern action heroes saddling up and taking the reins. The newest entry takes a supernatural bent and is called Jonah Hex Based on a 1970's era DC comic, the film stars Josh Brolin as the titled anti-hero character. We get just a smidgen of the back story. Jonah was a part of the Confederacy during the Civil War. His commanding officer Turnbull (John Malkovich) orders him to do a deed that Hex sees as an uncalled for act of war. When Hex refuses, many men die. To be punished Turnbull enacts his vengeance on Hex by killing off his family, leaving him for dead and burning his face. He is rescued by the local Indians who give the spirit of the crow, an ability to communicate with the dead and be hard to kill. All of this happens fairly much before the opening credits. The story starts with Hex being a bounty hunter who has a bounty on his own head. We get a blazing gun battle when a group of law men try to collect on Hex's bounty rather than pay him. It sets the tone both in violence and black humor, Gatling guns blazing. Soon after that, we meet Lilah (Megan Fox) a local lady of the evening who is all business with her customers but who has a soft spot in her heart for Hex. On the other side of the plot, there is a train robbery. Turnbull, who everyone thought was dead, is very much alive and planning a giant revenge plot against the United States. He and his band of outlaws steal a super weapon cannon. The scene is a parallel to our modern day terrorism, with explosive vests and innocent victims. The government contacts Hex through Lilah, promising him a government pardon if he will help them catch this terrorist before he can complete his plans. The rest of Jonah Hex is the hunt for the bad guys while the bad guys hunt for Hex. The fate of the nation rests Jonah Hex. Along the way we get to see Hex communicate with the dead, the curse of knowing the other side. It is his comic book style super-power. Josh Brolin is just brilliant with this role. He is not afraid to look ugly, both on the inside and out. He finds he right degree of snarl with Hex, but still manages to give one liners and quips as he kills the bad guys. It is good to know that 'Dirt likes the Dead” even for the bad guys. Speaking of bad guys, John Malkovich can do these roles in his sleep. Here is goes down a familiar path as the bad guy, chewing on each scene with a certain degree of rustic charm. He's got the snarl down pat. It is fun to watch him grunt and growl The weakest element in the film is Megan Fox. Though she is stunning to look at, she still cannot act her way out of a paper bag. All the director needs her for is to look pretty and fire some pistols. Her few moments on the screen are bearable as eye candy not as a performance. Another element Jonah Hex has going for it is its brevity. It doesn't break the 90 minute mark, getting one in and out of the theater without overstaying the welcome. It just flows along from scene to scene, giving heavy doses of action with little daubs of back-story and romance. Jonah Hex is not a great film and it is never going to win any awards. But it is a fun, slight diversion and not a bad flick to catch on a 'too hot to be outside' summer afternoon.