Josh Brolin plays Jonah Hex, a man transformed by loss in a fantasy western set just after the Civil War, based on the series of comics and graphic novels. The war is over in the United States, but it continues to haunt Hex, who rides the West as a gun for hire still wearing his Confederate Uniform.
Hex has no friends, at least not any who are alive. He has one enemy, Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), who made Hex watch as he ordered his men to make Hex suffer as he had, to watch as he loses everything he loves and has to live on, scarred inside and out. After Turnbull burns down Hex’s home with his wife and child inside, he orders his men to apply a fiery brand to Hex’s face, burning through the skin to the jawbone. “Every day that mark will remind you of the man who took everything you had.”
But that physically and psychologically searing experience gave Hex something, too. “It left me with the curse of talking to the other side,” he tells us. And so he rides, feeling nothing but vengeance, a gunman for hire, haunted by the dead and answerable to no one but himself.
Turnbull steals the most powerful weapon ever made, a sort of pre-industrial age H-bomb, And President Grant (Aidan Quinn) orders Lieutenant Grass (Will Arnett) to get Hex to find Turnbull and stop his plan to bring down the United States government as it reaches its 100th birthday.
It has a trim just-over-80 minutes running time, so I’m guessing there will be a future DVD release with a lot of deleted scenes. But the lean story-telling works well for its taciturn characters and spare settings, beautifully presented by cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen, and well scored by Marco Beltrami and John Powell with assistance from Mastodon. The blend of history and fantasy, both tweaking and saluting the conventions of both genres, works better than the clumsy references to current concerns like terrorism and tea party anti-government sentiment. Brolin is as at home in the role as he is in the saddle. As (of course) a prostitute with a mean right hook and, at least for Hex, a heart of gold, Megan Fox has to learn that a husky voice and a smoldering look are not enough to create a character. On the other hand, in that wasp-waisted corset (reportedly a Scarlett O’Hara-size 18 inches in diameter) she should get an award for staying upright.