A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Sometimes A Horse Is Just A Horse

In action, comic books, western on June 18, 2010 at 12:45 am

I don’t know, this Summer has been up and down, but for the most part; pretty disappointing. PRINCE OF PERSIA was no good; I’ve heard lackluster things about THE A-TEAM (don’t worry, I’ll probably be seeing it soon. Though it’s a toss up on whether I want to see that or the lukewarmly-reviewed KARATE KID, at this point.) and just about only SPLICE and CYRUS have managed to provide some level of true entertainment.

But, now comes JONAH HEX. A sci-fi, supernatural western, based off a comic book. It stars Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender and Aidan Quinn as President Ulysses S. Grant. Heck, there’s even appearances by Will Arnett, Lance Reddick, Michael Shannon (literally, if you blink you’ll miss him), Wes Bentley and even, Tom Wopat (you know, Luke Duke…get it?). Written by the likes of Neveldine & Taylor, the movie certainly has a bit of the freneticness that you’d expect from the creators of the CRANK franchise.

And the last part of the equation is director Jimmy Hayward, whose biggest credit to date as director is HORTON HEARS A WHO. That’s not a denigrating tone in my voice you’re picking up; Hayward is sort of the trendsetter of animation directors getting their shot at live-action movies. As a matter of fact, Brad Bird (THE IRON GIANT, THE INCREDIBLES) is directing the next MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movie, and Andrew Stanton (WALL-E and FINDING NEMO) is currently making JOHN CARTER OF MARS.

Heck, I’m going to go out on a limb and say right now; I actually quite liked JONAH HEX. It might be that I just have an affinity for Westerns. It could also be that seeing Josh Brolin with that scarified face and dynamite crossbow-guns; every character with rotten and crooked teeth commenting on how ugly Hex is; and even the interactions between Hex and certain characters – mainly either the dead or animals; that made the movie pretty enjoyable. Lord knows it wasn’t the actual story, or any of the other – mostly undefined – characters. I don’t think that I even caught what Megan Fox’s character’s name was until almost the end of the movie – and I know I don’t remember it now, and don’t recall ever hearing Fassbender’s name in the movie. But, the swooping camera-work, as Hex – and other various cowboys – ride through the wild-west (well, Louisiana, standing in for Georgia and South Carolina and Washington DC); the gun and fist fights; and definitely the wardrobe, all helped to create a world that allowed me not to mind some of the pitfalls.

Oh you want to know what the story is? Fine, let’s see…Jonah Hex was a soldier in the Confederate Army. He disobeyed an order, killed a friend/fellow soldier – that was also the son of their commanding officer, Quentin Turnbull (couldn’t help but think that this was someone’s calling out of Quentin Tarantino) – played sleepily by Malkovich – who in turn kills Hex’s family and scars up his face a little bit. Then there’s stuff that masterfully blows up, people fight and make fun of Jonah’s face – usually to their detriment. Fassbender has weird tattoos, Brolin wears a questionable prosthetic, and Fox wears forearm sleeves, even when she’s wearing nothing else – well, other than a sheet around her. Oh and there’s some giant-mega-super weapon that Turnbull makes.

There are some very promising and interesting places that the movie goes – or tries to – including the use of the word “terrorist” and giving us a viewpoint of that mindset. Turnbull focuses on paying back the government that destroyed the Confederacy – or his family, or something – by killing innocent people (“there are no innocents,” he says at one point), and setting out to destroy their symbols of…well, whatever. Of course, the point is driven home more with explosions than with any kind of actual understanding. The other idea that I liked, but kind of went nowhere, was how Hex interacted with the dead. I won’t spoil the gimmicks there, but it was pretty neat. Though, they really kind of dropped the ball on having a character that could reanimate the dead – especially someone that he dearly wants to punish. But, there were certain aspects – mostly in the trippiness of certain moments, that reminded me of 2004’s RENEGADE (adapted from the comics and titled in the rest of the world as BLUEBERRY), another western dealing tangentially with indian mysticism and whatnot. (Don’t worry, it wasn’t very good, but had some cool actors like Vincent Cassel and Michael Madsen in it.)

What was I talking about? Oh yeah…

Lastly, the only other major issue with the movie I had  – this is really starting to sound like I didn’t like the movie, isn’t it? – is that this movie, clearly should have been R-rated. There are moments that lack that final punch, because we are denied seeing the payoff to some of the violence. Not that I’m usually one to call out for blood, but at the same time, sometimes you just want to see people pay for their evilness.

But, the movie looks great. It feels like post-Civil War era, and is quite fun. I know everyone’s going to go see TOY STORY 3 this weekend, but if you’re looking for something with a little (dumber) meat on it’s bones, you could do worse than see this. Yes, I know that’s not the best endorsement…I said that the movie isn’t great, just that I liked it.


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