Let’s get one thing straight: if you’re going into Jonah Hex looking for a movie to take seriously, you might leave disappointed. I know that the reigning trend in comic book adaptations is grim, serious and gritty, but this is not a tale out of great literature. It’s an unstoppable badass with a screwed-up face who puts bullets in people left and right and Megan Fox in a corset. And, as such, it rules.
Here’s the basics: Former Confederate soldier Jonah Hex had a rough time of it – forced to kill his best friend, watched his wife and killed kid in front of him, and then had his face seared with a branding iron. And the man responsible for all this was his former commanding officer, Quentin Turnbull (played by a gleefuly scenery-chewing John Malkovich, who can make any villain fun to watch). Now Hex roams the West dealing out vigilante justice, with a newly-added superpower of being able to chit-chat with the recently dead like so much Miles Strom.
But no good villain just appears in flashbacks, so we rapidly learn that Turnbull is assembling his own terrorist force, complete with stolen experimental weapons, to topple the Union and take back the States. Hex, hired by Ulysses S. Grant, is the only man that stands in his way. He’s assisted by Megan Fox as his hooker best friend, proving that even on the worst day of your life there’s still a ray of sunshine.
And so, we march forward towards the inevitable confrontation between the two foes, with berserk, exciting action scenes spiking the almost ludicrous level of existential dread that the film (ably assisted by Josh Brolin as Hex, who delivers a remarkable performance under loads of latex face makeup) piles on. The weirdness is amped up by the frenetic editing, as the final film clocks in at barely eighty minutes – extremely short for a Hollywood blockbuster. Supporting castmembers like Will Arnett and Michael Shannon seem wasted. But Brolin’s intensity and presence carry the day – although everything around him is falling apart, Jonah Hex rides on.