Horror review: Jonah Hex

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, JUNE 18, 2010

Prolific director William “One Shot” Beaudine pretty well invented the horror-western in 1966, with the twin features Billy the Kid vs. Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, but it wasn’t until Kathryn Bigelow helmed the bloodsuckers-in-the-dust epic Near Dark in ’87 that the genre produced a real winner. From what I’ve heard, 2008’s direct-to-video The Burrowers also did the cowboys-in-peril crowd proud.

Which brings us to Jonah Hex, a wacky, DC comic book–spawned supernatural western that—surprisingly, since it costars the gorgeously untalented Megan Fox—is quite enjoyable. It’s definitely a vast improvement over her previous horror outing, last year’s Jennifer’s Body. Mind you, one reason Jonah Hex comes off all right is because she’s hardly ever in it.

A sneering John Malkovich exudes evil as Quentin Turnbull, a Confederate colonel whose son is killed by greycoat Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) when Hex refuses to follow orders and massacre civilians. The vengeful Turnbull forces Hex to watch his beloved family being burned alive, then mutilates him with a branding iron and leaves him for dead, his right cheek becoming a mangled mess through which grimy teeth are seen.

A squinting, justice-seeking cross between Clint Eastwood and Darkman, Hex becomes a famous bounty hunter who inhabits the worlds of the living and the dead. Not only is he mighty handy with Gatling guns, he can also reanimate corpses for interrogation just by touching them—although they start to fry like sun-exposed vampires pretty quick.

When President Ulysses S. Grant (Aidan Quinn) learns that Turnbull plans to use a stolen super-weapon to destroy the Union, he enlists Hex to track the “terrorist” down. There’s loads of silliness amid the rampant gunplay, explosions, and burnings, but it’s popcorn-chomping fun rooting for the soul-stripped Hex as he battles his way toward redemption and sweet, sweet payback. There are far worse ways to spend 80 minutes of your time.

Did I mention Jennifer’s Body?

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