Jonah Hex (2010)

jonah hex

“Ch**st, woman, how many men you seeing a day?”

The Scoop: 2010 PG-13, directed by Jimmy Hayward and starring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox and John Malkovich

Tagline: Revenge Gets Ugly.

Summary Capsule: Scarred bounty hunter learns the man who killed his family and gave him his scar is alive and plotting an attack on the U.S. Unsurprisingly, this does not go over well.

Drew’s rating: Not the worst comic book movie I’ve ever seen, and that’s pretty sad. Probably the worst western, though.

Drew’s review: I’m a fan of westerns and a fan of comic books… so as you’d expect, I’m a big fan of Jonah Hex. It’s a simple concept: he’s a luckless S.O.B. with a horribly scarred face who served with the Confederacy and accidentally got his best friend killed, making a lifelong enemy of the friend’s father.

So what’s a hideous man with a talent for gunplay and making enemies to do except become the most feared bounty hunter in history? His lover is Tallulah Black, a woman who was shot in the eye, raped, and had her face and nethers slashed to ribbons, who convinces Hex to train her as a killer so she can seek revenge. And as every man, woman and child knows, he had no friends, this Jonah Hex, but he did have two companions — one was death itself; the other, the acrid smell of gunsmoke.

One of the appeals of Jonah Hex is that he’s a true antihero, not a regular hero with a miniscule dark side. You really don’t ever know what he’s going to do, and some of it is really horrible. Today he might use bounty money to anonymously pay off the mortgage of a single mother and her son who are about to be evicted. Tomorrow he may kill every male member of a family because he (mistakenly) believes that they’re cannibals. The day after he could save an orphan from ravenous wolves, then abandon him in a cabin in the dead of winter to either survive or perish. The only real theme in Hex’s adventures is death — he’s good at dealing it, and even when he’s not looking, it has a way of finding him.

The more astute of you may have noticed I’ve gotten two paragraphs in without talking about the movie. That’s because you know who Jonah Hex isn’t? An ex-soldier who watched his family get murdered in front of him. That’s the Punisher. He also wasn’t resurrected by crows (that’s, um, the Crow), and he doesn’t talk to dead people — that’s Haley Joel Osment. Oh yeah, and you know what he also doesn’t have? &%*$ing machine guns on his horse.

Let me repeat that in case you didn’t get it: on his HORSE.

So five minutes in, I knew this film had lied to me in claiming to be about Jonah Hex. Hey, I’m not a purist… I know they have to change things in translating comics to film. Spider-Man expertly streamlined decades of unrelated stories, and Batman Begins made it look easy. But there’s simplifying and condensing to appeal to a broader audience, and then there’s just making a movie about a completely different character. Since no one but comic fans knows who Jonah Hex is anyway, why not just write a screenplay about a scarred cowboy and save yourself the licensing fees? Hollywood is stupid.

If you’re still bent on seeing it, Jonah Hex is an entirely by-the-numbers neo-western, meaning it’s set in the old west but tries to incorporate technology way too advanced for the time period, and Megan Fox looks like Megan Fox instead of having a face ravaged by syphilis and being addicted to opium. The plot, such as it is, has bounty hunter and former Reb Jonah Hex (Brolin) being enlisted by the U.S. government to track down Quentin Turnbull, the man who murdered Hex’s family and was until recently believed to be very dead.

Turnbull (Malkovich), an ex-Confederate general, is building a massively destructive weapon blah blah blah, unleash terror on the Union, yadda yadda Hex has to kill him. Megan Fox plays tough prostitute Lilah because it’s important to know that even a guy with a mangled face can get freebies from a hooker, and also that you can still shoot guns while showing 80% of your boobs. Otherwise, she’s completely superfluous to the plot. Oh, also, Will Arnett is in it… and no, it’s not a comedy. (It’s okay, Will, I don’t hold it against you. I know hot tubs don’t pay for themselves.)

Listen: all you really need to know is that at some point, someone wrote the line of dialogue “Everyone who gets close to me dies,” and no one bothered to aggressively scrawl over it with red marker while screaming “GAAAAAH NO YOU CLICHED HACKS WE’RE NOT DOING THAT, OVER MY DEAD BODY!” Or if he did, he was quickly fired.

It’s terrible — hackneyed plot, stilted dialogue, phoned-in performances. It’s Michael Bay-esque in that they don’t even try to explain what the superweapon is and there are plenty of explosions; but even the gunfights are lazy and uninspired, just going through the motions. Hex’s supernatural powers are not just stupid but also don’t make any sense (a dead person Hex brings back can see the “comings and goings” of anyone they knew in life… and they slowly burn from the inside… but sprinkling dirt on them makes the burning stop. Uh, okay). It even dares to steal from A Fistful of Dollars with Hex’s comment about more coffins being needed… and before you say it, it’s only an homage if it’s clever; otherwise it’s just theft.

Bottom line, there are a million better westerns you can see if that’s your thing, a hundred better comic book movies, and a thousand better vaguely supernatural action movies. If you watch Jonah Hex, you have only yourself to blame.

Just in case you forgot: machine guns. On his horse. Yeah.

When you google “Jonah Hex images,” it’s basically just 100 pictures of Megan Fox in a corset. I wish I were joking.


  • In the ’80s, Jonah starred in an odd, Mad Max-inspired series simply titled “Hex” where he was thrown into a post-apocalyptic future. This was referenced in the Justice League Unlimited episode “The Once and Future Thing,” as the League goes back in time and meets DC’s western characters. Jonah correctly guesses that the visitors are from the future, and when asked how he knew, simply replies, “I’ve led an interesting life.” Hex had previously appeared in the episode “Showdown” of Batman: The Animated Series, fighting the immortal Ra’s al Ghul.
  • While the comic Jonah Hex very rarely encounters the supernatural, there are exceptions. In the ’90s he starred in 3 miniseries (Two-Gun Mojo, Riders of the Worm and Such, Shadows West) where he fought a witch doctor, zombies, and a Cthulian worm creature, among others.
  • Jonah Hex: Michael Vick’s natural enemy?
  • Though she’s known as “Lilah” for most of the film, Fox’s character eventually reveals that her real name is Tallulah Black. This actually made me mad; I’d rather they have created an original character rather than destroying another one from the comics.
  • In theory Jonah Hex should be one of the easiest comic characters to translate to film, since most of his adventures are single issue stories and there are almost no ongoing subplots. Compared to superheroes like Spider-Man or Batman, Jonah Hex is remarkably continuity light. So how’d they screw it up so badly?

Groovy Quotes:

    • Hex: These are the boys you wanted.
    • Mayor: The Clayton boys.
    • Hex: That’s right.
    • Mayor: Appear we have a little problem, Mr. Hex. They’s four Clayton boys. This only three boys. I don’t see my way we could possibly recompense you the agreed-upon “recomseption.”
    • [Hex tosses over sack; mayor looks inside, retches]
    • Hex: The rest of him was too fat for my horse.

[A regiment of soldiers bursts into the room where Hex and Lilah are post-coital]
Hex: Christ, woman, how many men you seeing a day?

Evan: You can’t outshoot a dozen men.
Hex: I might like them odds.

Hex: I wanna talk to him.
Grass: He’s dead, Hex.
Hex: Yeah, I’ll have a word with him all the same.

Burke: Pretty orange balls.
Billy: Don’t seem like much.
Burke: Aye, but they’ll turn the world to dust all the same.

Jeb: Now, you listen to me. They talk about you down here. You do yourself a favor. You stay ahead of death as long as you can, you hear? Because they got plans for you.

Goon: Hey, what happened to your faaaaa–
Hex: I’m about all out of wiseass answers, friend.

Hex: Well, searched you pretty darn good, didn’t they?
Lilah: Wouldn’t you?

If you liked this movie, try these:

    • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
    • Wild Wild West
    • Michael Bay-splosions!!!


  1. For your amusement, here’s this recounting of a Gaming Session From Hell involving the original Deadlands RPG (For those unfamiliar, Deadlands is a Weird Western setting which could be described as what The Wild, Wild West would have been like if it had been co-created by Harry Turtledove and Brian Lumley). The reason I bring it up here is because the session in question involved a GM controlled character who was obviously Jonah Hex with the serial numbers filed off whom the players dubbed Jonah Heck. And to further give an idea of how the GM clearly had no clue what he was doing, the initiative system for Deadlands uses poker cards instead of dice.

  2. One thing that annoys me about this flick (and mind you, I haven’t actually seen it, just the trailers) is that they got Jonah’s scars wrong. Sure, they got the ‘horrible gaping mouth connected by a thread of nerve tissue’ bit right, but that’s not all there is to it – he’s also supposed to have one exposed, bulging eye. I mean, this is the iconic design – every single other incarnation of the character has it to some degree or another. Just how difficult would it have been for Hollywood’s makeup geniuses to come up with a freakin’ exposed eye? They did it for Two-Face – why couldn’t they do it for Jonah Hex?

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