Sunday, February 6, 2011
Horror Film Review
It reminded me of Wild Wild West. There's a diabolical madman, Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), armed with a "nation killing" weapon, there's a hero, Hex (Josh Brolin) with some James Bond-esque gadgets, and President Ulysses S. Grant (Aiden Quinn) desperately needing help. But whereas the Will Smith film was a bloated, overwrought mess, Jonah Hex is a lean, mean, action machine. At just a little over 80 minutes, though, I have to wonder if the editor went a bit crazy with the scissors.
Hex was a Confederate soldier under Turnbull who disobeyed an order to burn down a civilian hospital. He ended up fighting and killing his best friend Jeb Turnbull, Quentin's son. Quentin gets revenge by forcing Hex to watch his wife and son burn alive. Left for dead, Hex is rescued and brought back from the brink of death by a tribe of Native Americans. This somehow leaves him with the ability to speak to the dead (he has to touch them to do it, though). After learning Quentin died, Hex becomes a bounty hunter. He has a girlfriend/prostitute named Lilah (Megan Fox) to whom he won't commit because, he says, people who get close to him die. Fair enough. Now, President Grant learns Turnbull's alive and has stolen components from the U.S. Army to construct a massive revolving cannon thing (designed by Eli Whitney of cotton gin fame). This cannon shoots a series of what appear to be normal cannonballs. Once strewn around the target area, a final ball is fired, but this one glows orange and went it lands amidst the others, a chain reaction sets them all off resulting in an explosion reminiscent of the bunker-busters used in the Iraq war. What's in the orange ball and how does the whole thing work? I have no idea. It wasn't explained. And that is the movie's weak point.
We get about five minutes of backstory on Hex, a few random flashbacks about his time with Turnbull, but otherwise, we know nothing of the film's characters' backgrounds or motivations. Why is Turnbull such an evil prick? How did Lilah end up whoring in a dusty town in the middle of nowhere and how did she and Hex hook up? What's the story with Turnbull's right-hand man, Burke (Michael Fassbender)? He's British and so should have a interesting reason for buddying up to an evil prick. We never discover the answers to any of these and many, many more questions. Funny thing is, you really won't care.
Anyway, President Grant knows about their history and recruits Hex to stop whatever Turnbull's planning (blowing up Washington, D.C. it turns out). Turnbull kidnaps Lilah for insurance, takes her aboard the ship from which he's going to launch the attack on the capital. From there on out, it's about what you'd expect. It is a Hollywood movie, you know.
Acting: You'd think that being around Josh Brolin for weeks and weeks, Megan Fox would have picked up a thing or two about acting. Alas, no. She's virtually a robot. A sexy babe of a robot, but still a robot. Malkovich chews on the scenery while Aiden Quinn is incredibly believable as our 18th president.
Story: Unique take on an old idea. I was a huge fan of the original Wild Wild West TV show (not the film) so I was immediately taken in.
Direction: Not what you'd called lethargic. You barely have time to catch your breath and process each scene. This is a good thing.
Production Values: Excellent. Look at the cast...you know they had plenty of money to throw around.
Gore/FX: No blood outside the western shoot-'em-up variety. The FX are great. Seamless CGI along with real explosions. Cool.
Ending: Pure Hollywood.
Verdict: Should you watch it? Yes, yes you should. Jonah Hex is nothing more than a breezy, popcorn flick chock-full of action and some really funny one-liners. If you don't take it seriously and turn your brain off, it's a blast.
My Rating: 4 out of 5
Posted by Nate Dean at 2:34 PM