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Dork vs. Dork: Jonah Hex
’Cause what we needed was another stab at the post-modern fantasy Western

06/17/10
By Dan Szczesny dszczesny@hippopress.com



Glenn SPEAKS

Jonah Hex. Sigh. I know that DC was hoping to draw down more gritty charismatic lightning to its film adaptations (a la the from-left-field goodness of 2005’s Constantine), but Jonah Hex could never make narrative sparks fly. While demon-hunter/con man/hardboiled detective Constantine pulled off the brooding cool cocksure everyman against a horrific mythos of angels and devils, Hex has always been an awkward amalgam. Now, I like Westerns almost as much as I like pulp, but, like King’s Dark Tower opus, melding the Western to fantasy as they are obviously attempting has never clicked.

Also, Wild, Wild West, just gonna put it out there that, yeah, that movie happened.

Hex, here played by Brolin, works best as a humble character, a gruff southern soldier with a twisted past and a hankerin’ for putting bullets in them what needs ventilation. What doesn’t work for him is crossbows that shoot dynamite (via HBO’s The Wire alum Lance Reddick) and volleying quips with a sassy prostitute. If Megan Fox’s breathy-bosom-heaving-I-mean-acting were any more one-dimensional she would only be identifiable as a mathematical coordinate. And Brolin, previously alternating between his dour seriousness, smug smoldering and dark brooding faces, is forced into teeth-clacking scene-chewing at the mercy of laughable makeup and prosthetics. Also, apparently Hex can bring people back from the dead. Huh? I think you got some The Crow in my Pale Rider there, pardners. At least we can be assured of one subtle nuanced performance by way of the understated menace of

John Malkov...oh wait...

DC has better characters in their stable.

DAN Responds
Really? Crossbows that shoot dynamite doesn’t work for you? What’s next on your no-fly list? Robot ninjas? Pirates?!  And the purist argument of Westerns being only about guns and hookers is horse hockey as well. Ever since every single one of John Wayne’s bullets started easily finding their marks back in the 1930s, Westerns have been about as, dare I say it, supernatural as anything the SF channel can throw our way. No no, let Brolin bring back the dead. Maybe he can even bring back Megan Fox’s acting. Hey oh!   

 

Dan SPEAKS

There’s a great scene in the classic Sergio Corbucci spaghetti Western rip-off, Django, when our coffin-dragging “hero” Franco Nero pulls a Gatling gun out of the coffin and wipes out about 50 bad guys.  Well, technically it was a maxim machine gun but details, details. I thought of this scene the first time I watched the preview for Jonah Hex, as our anti-hero rears up on his horse to reveal TWO Gatling guns strapped to the animals flanks and proceeds to feed some well-deserved lead to a whole building of no doubt bad guys.

It’s a spaghetti Western. That’s why it’ll be so much fun. It’s been a long time since Clint and Sergio Leone  — and, yes, all the low-rent Italian westerns that came after — filled the screens with impossible gunslingers and over-exaggerated floosies (Megan Fox, hello) and brilliant splashes of Smuckers jam blood.

Who cares what the plot is? Revenge. That’s what all the plots are. What matters is that director Jimmy Hayward’s time as an animator for Toy Story, Monsters, Inc and Finding Nemo will make Jonah Hex a cartoon-like shoot-em-up worthy of the spaghetti Western genre.

Josh Brolin. John Malkovich. Will Arnett just for fun. And go ahead, rip on Megan Fox and her insane accent. But Brolin himself requested her for the role, forwhich she spent a mere five days on the set. Hardly heavyweight stuff. But like Claudia Cardinale before her, her job isn’t to act and Brolin understands that.

Thinking too deeply about this movie will get you nowhere. Just sit back and listen to the seductive whirrrrrr of the guns.

GLENN Responds
I wish I could not think deeply about this movie. I wish I could not think of this movie, period. But Megan Fox’s stupid dumb face keeps slurring soap opera-level entendre into my now cursed ears every time I screw up my Tivo commercial skipping. In case you blew off freshman film seminar, Szczesny, spaghetti Westerns were bad-awful, not bad-fun. When you churn out dozens of films on shoestring budgets you are gonna get some sparkling moments, but don’t fall into the glorification of mid-century schlock where Tarantino has built his bungalow.






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