Blasé saddles

Jonah Hex is a fun ride, but little else

Starring Josh Brolin, John Malkovich and Megan Fox. Directed by Jimmy Hayward. Feather River Cinemas, Paradise Cinema 7 and Tinseltown. Rated PG-13.
Rated 3.0

Comic-book movies are all the rage these days, especially those that are off the beaten path, a step beyond Batman and Spiderman, and delve a little more into the darker depths of humanity.

And that’s precisely where Jonah Hex fits in. The antihero came to life in 1970s DC comics. He wore a disfiguring facial scar. And he kicked ass, the old-fashioned way.

In the film, Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) is a gun-slinging bounty hunter. The Civil War is over and Hex’s former superior officer, Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), returns for revenge. Apparently Hex had turned on his own company and deserves to be reminded of his blunder daily with the brand Turnbull burns onto his face.

But the brand does something else to Hex (who is cured by Native Americans who find him close to death): He is now able to talk to the dead, a handy but not particularly glamorous super power.

When Hex is later offered the opportunity to exact revenge on Turnbull, who has created a gang of thieves and scientists to carry on the war, he jumps at the opportunity. But he doesn’t look happy about it. The closest he gets to a smile is when he’s with his lady-of-the-night friend Lilah (Megan Fox).

Jonah Hex has the grit of an old-time Western, even if some elements seem out of place (such as a guy with face tattoos). While Hex isn’t your average comic-book protagonist—his powers are of the speak-to-the-dead persuasion—Brolin’s tough-guy persona and man’s-man good looks make him likeable even when he’s killing guys for merely looking at him sideways.

Jonah Hex doesn’t waste much time with character development or plot setup, so at times the story seems rushed, at others disjointed because pertinent information has not yet been explained. This can be confusing, but ultimately it makes for a fast-paced film filled with more action than dialogue.

There aren’t many negatives here—it’s a good time, overall. But it fails to break any barriers or to push the comic-movie genre into new territory, so even with a stellar cast it’s more style than substance.