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Movies From the Black Lagoon: Jonah Hex

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Jonah Hex - 2010, Rated PG-13
By Tom Doty

A scarred bounty hunter tracks a crazed confederate General who is planning to blow up President U.S. Grant in this western/action opus based on the DC Comics character.
When film critics torpedoed this movie and hailed it as one of the worst of 2010 it got on our radar ere at the lagoon. Surely no film could be that bad now that Ed Wood has died. Wrong again. This is a stink burger of the lowest magnitude. That said the film does offer up some amazing visuals as well as establishing a new record for best performances by actors who were savvy enough to work without screen credit.
The story reeks of studio tampering. It's a rugged revenge drama that probably would have been pretty grisly had they let it be an R-Rated flick for adults. Instead they have marketed the film towards comic book fans even though the original series was inspired by the adult westerns that came out of Italy in the 60s. Funny but I just can't picture taking my kids to a movie that opens with a sequence in which a family is burned alive while the dad is forced to watch.
The next scene finds the villainous Turnbull following up the murders by having Hex's face permanently scarred with a hot poker. Voice over narration informs us that Turnbull has died before Hex can seek his revenge so the guy has become a bounty hunter.
We get to see Hex at work as he returns the remains f four men to the town that posted a reward for them. Hex brings back three of the corpses and the head of the fourth guy, as he was too fat to fit on his spare mare. At this point I sure was wondering why" Warner Brothers Pictures' would think that this would appeal to kids but then again I am lowly monster movie fanatic and not a marketing genius. The makeup on Hex is kinds lame compared to the comic where he looked like a gargoyle thanks to a misshapen eye. Here he basically rocks an extra skin flap that connects his lips together on one side so that he can talk like Clint Eastwood.
The film also charts his friendship with a Wild West prostitute named Lilah. Only in Hollywood would a saloon girl be drop dead gorgeous and prefer to kiss clients on the mouth. She's also a dead shot and that will come in handy when she is kidnapped to make Hex surrender during the finale. Sorry but you see that one coming form the minute this character appears.
The film doesn't wait very long before revealing that Turnbull is still alive-dun, dun, dun! He is also assembling a huge weapon to disrupt the Centennial celebration and upset U.S. Grant by letting him know that the south will rise again. Grant turns to the one person who can kill lots of guys and save the day-Jonah Hex. Hex heads out after Turnbull's gang for a showdown that will be loud, expensive, and dumb.
You really want to like this film but they made a mistake when they opted to remake 'Wild, Wild, West" and call it Jonah Hex. Robert Conrad's old show had plots like this that mixed sci-fi stuff with western gunfights to great success. Here it doesn't wash and is a shabby way to treat a great D.C. character that defied the stereotype for western heroes by rocking killer scars and a nasty attitude. Josh Brolin plays him as a low talking thug with few social graces though he can talk to the dead by touching them. Why? I couldn't tell you.
This could have been a fun film if they let Sam Raimi make it 20 years ago with a micro budget. The result would have been down and dirty. What we get instead are lots of huge explosions and a few big action scenes that make Hex look more like James Bond than "The Man with No Name."
This film does merit attention for cool performances by actors who choose to appear unbilled. Jeffery Dean Morgan (Supernatural) makes the most of his two-minute bit as the corpse of Turnbull's son. Lance Reddick (Lost) is also good in a throwaway role as an African American gunsmith that acts as "Q" to Hex's Bond. Though why he would support a man outside the law who fought against the North is not adequately explained. Hex fans are advised wait till the smell of this flick drifts away before petitioning D.C. Comics to let HBO film it as a replacement for 'Deadwood."
Best Line: "The rest of him was too fat for my horse."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to:

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