May 1, 2020
Jonah Hex (2010): a recap (part 2 of 6): The Adventures of Jonah Hex’s Magic Horse
Last time on What the Hex: The grumpy man (Jonah Hex) committed some light treason.
The crazy man (Quentin Turnbull) got on his case about it.
The crazier man (so far not named; I’ll just call him This Fucking Guy Again) treated Hex’s wife and son to a sauna but forgot to bring any water or rocks. But it’s the thought that counts, right?
Then Turnbull burned his initials into Hex’s face and left him to die. But he didn’t count on a helpful band of animated Crow Indians coming to heal Hex with their Stereotype Magic!
The side-effects of Hex’s treatment granted him vaguely defined powers of communication with the dead, as well as crows that follow him wherever he goes, a happenstance which lends itself to an amusing thought exercise: If Hex had been saved by the Winnebago tribe, would he have been followed around by recreational vehicles? If it had been Blackfoot, would he have been dogged by southern rock legends?
Hex tracks down Turnbull to exact his vengeance, but (wink) Turnbull totally dies (wink) in a fire (wink-wink), forcing Hex to sate his lingering bloodlust by killing criminals as a bounty hunter.
And now for…
Part 2: The Adventures of Jonah Hex’s Magic Horse
Hex rides into a “town” you could throw a baseball over. Most of the town appears to be a mining operation that isn’t actually mining anything. Hex is dragging a few bodies behind him on his horse, because Delta’s bag-check fee can suck it.
Lumpen townspeople stare at Hex from the doorways of buildings that don’t appear in the establishing shot. Undaunted, Hex hauls his putrefying cargo to the town hall, where there are four men gathered, including the town’s sheriff and mayor. The mayor, a boiled potato in a waistcoat, addresses him by name.
Hex responds with his sweatiest approximation of an Eastwood-style thousand-yard stare, giving us our first glimpse at his newly branded face. But wait, something’s amiss! Instead of Turnbull’s brand, the right side of his face is just a lumpy, scarred mass of Edward-James-Olmos-ian hamburger. Somehow a strand of tissue has grown over his lips, and the right corner of his mouth pokes out the other side of it, looking for all the world like a butthole. Now, I aim for a certain level of taste in my work, so expect, at most, five or six jokes about this. I swear.
The three corpses are “the Clayton boys”. The mayor says he can’t possibly pay the full bounty, as there are four Clayton boys. Apparently, they’re like my vintage Batman Forever promotional cups: you have to have the whole set or they’re worthless. But fear not! Hex has the fourth brother’s head in a bag, explaining that “the rest of him was too fat for my horse.”
Hex asks for his money. The mayor explains that that the promised $100 was a “limited time offer”. Hex is afraid he must insist. The mayor gets unaccountably pissy and tells him “there’s an unscrupulous man or two who’d pay double that for your stinkin’ hide!”
This gives Hex occasion to count the coffins leaning against a nearby fence, which gives us occasion to remember the opening scene of a much better Western that also dealt with a certain number of coffins. “Five coffins,” Hex chuffs. He glowers at the party gathered in front of him, having deduced the plan. “Sure you don’t need eight?”
The jig is up. “Cut him down!” shouts the mayor. But Hex is prepared; he drops the cloth off his saddlebags to reveal two mounted Gatling guns.
It’s unclear whether Hex predicted the double-cross, or he just makes his horse carry these guns all the time.
Since we’re on the subject, let’s talk about Hex’s horse for a minute. Wikipedia tells me that one Gatling gun weighs as much as a grown man (77 kg, or 170 lbs), which means that horse is now carrying the weight of three riders, plus dragging three more as dead weight. What’s more, as Hex starts shooting, not only is the horse not spooked at all by sustained machine-gun fire happening a foot or two from its face, but it doesn’t appear to struggle with, or even notice, the massive recoil that those guns must generate. Are we sure it’s not really the horse who has superpowers?
Hex mows down the party in front of the town hall with little effort, his mega-horse obligingly cantering from side to side to get a good firehose motion going. There’s also a rifleman hiding in the belfry of the church, whom Hex flushes out by shooting the bell and making it ring. Another man is hiding inside one of the coffins with a shotgun. In this case, Hex is saved by only the fact that his assailant is a giant fucking idiot who somehow didn’t already have a shell chambered and has to waste a split second pumping the action dramatically.
After the carnage is through, Hex fishes through the sheriff’s pockets for the bounty money, which the sheriff was carrying even though he didn’t actually intend to pay it. Sigh. Whatever. He removes the sheriff’s badge, too, and pins it on the most offensive “retard” stereotype in the history of American cinema with a “congratulations.”
Then he shoots the broken gaslight, causing the town hall and much of the town itself to explode, as one does.
The scene dissolves to a train chugging along the countryside. This particular train is carrying some extremely heavy armament, along with what looks like a full platoon of soldiers, and also a fancy passenger car filled with well-dressed, genteel-looking people, which seems like a completely normal arrangement.
The eagle-eyed viewer will catch Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds making an on-screen appearance so as to officially erase any plausible deniability of his involvement in this disaster. His hat’s pulled low, because this movie only has room for one guy with silly facial tattoos.
Suddenly, bandits on horses run up alongside the train. Before the assembled soldiers can fire on them, two of the bandits put masks on and start gunning people down before throwing their shirts open to reveal bomb vests. The camera zooms out along the railroad tracks to reveal a stretch of track stuffed with dynamite, with That Fucking Guy just chilling on the tracks.
Wasting no time, the bandits jump on the engine, kick the engineers out, detach the car hauling the armament (which is, conveniently, immediately behind the engine), and leave That Fucking Guy to blow up the rest of the train. The bombed sections of track match the length of the train perfectly, suggesting that the bandits knew exactly how long the train was and exactly where it would drift to a stop. How? My “fan theory” is that this movie sucks.
The scene cuts to Washington, D.C., as established by the Washington Monument surrounded by scaffolding, since it’s 1876 and the thing wasn’t done yet.
The movie gets partial credit for at least trying to do a history, but for the record, this is what the monument actually looked like in 1876:
Cut to the Oval Office. “You’re sure,” says President Grant, “Absolutely sure, it was Turnbull?”
“Positive, President Grant,” says a smarmy military official played by (spits out coffee) Will Arnett?!?
Hey, I got in two Arrested Development jokes in one article. Nice. Also note how he says “President Grant” instead of the normal “Mr. President”, because this movie thinks we’re too stupid to recognize a president whose face is on money.
The president muses that Turnbull must be planning some sort of disruption of America’s centennial celebration, which is in ten days. He fears the worst from Turnbull. “He targeted hospitals, schools, churches,” Grant says. “Strike enough fear into people’s hearts, and they’ll tear down the government that failed to protect them.” To be fair, these tactics differ only in degree from ones Grant personally authorized as Commanding General of the Union Army; to be fairer, this movie is hardly intended to be a history lesson.
“His Mexican slaves had a nickname for him… what was it?” Grant asks. “Terrorista,” someone replies. Gosh, guys, I don’t speak Spanish. D’you mind translating that?
The scene cuts back to the train robbery, where—surprise, I guess?—Turnbull unmasks himself, and turns out to be shockingly alive.
“Load all that cannon onto our wagon,” he tells his men. “Find what’s left of our two boys and give them a proper burial. Burn the rest.” Umm… Okay, two things. A) They were wearing 40 pounds of dynamite each, dude; what exactly are you planning to bury? And B) “Burn the rest”? I would hazard a guess that they’re pretty well burned already.
Back in the Oval Office, Lt. Horseman informs the president that, in addition to the train robbery, Turnbull’s men raided an armory in Summerland, Virginia. “He’s building it,” Grant says, horrified. He insists that Jonah Hex be tracked down and asked for help, on the grounds that Hex’s history with Turnbull makes Hex uniquely qualified to find and stop him.
“Mark my words, gentlemen,” says Grant. “The very fate of our nation may rest on the shoulders of Jonah Hex.”
Back at… wherever… Jonah Hex sits in a tavern, trying to drink whiskey, but experiencing some uncomfortable leakage.
An unruly patron draws a knife and taunts him with, “Hey Hex, what happened to your face??” Hex blows him away with a one-liner (and also a gun): “Cut myself shavin’. What happened to yours?” He then heads upstairs.
In what may or may not be the same building (the editing’s confusing), we see a woman enticingly slide up a pair of garters. The camera pans up, and we wish it hadn’t, cause wouldn’t you know it, it’s five-time Razzie nominee, one-time winner, and erstwhile Michael Bay enemy Megan Fox.
Ms. Fox has got to be the rankest hunk of gristle in the trash sandwich that is Jonah Hex. It’s truly breathtaking how much she sucks. She makes Kristen Stewart look like a DNA splice of both Hepburns. She’s listed in the thesaurus as an antonym for screen presence. She’s a howling void of talent, a supermassive black hole leeching the light and heat from every scene she appears in.
Because Jonah Hex’s imaginative range can be measured in ångströms, Megan Fox is playing a hooker with a heart of gold, though from her stiff movements, immobile face, and hollow eyes, it’s far from certain that she even has the regular kind of heart. Recapping the ensuing scene with her and Hex would be a tremendous slog for me and ultimately yield little benefit to you, the reader. Instead, I’m going to show you the following screen caps with their accompanying lines:
If you’re familiar with movies, even on a theoretical level, you can reconstruct the entire scene from just what I’ve provided, and what your imagination produces will surely be more entertaining and illustrative than the scene that actually happens.
Just then, men from Lt. Will Arnett’s unit burst in. “Christ, woman, how many men you see in a day?” Hex asks. Man, I can’t decide which bit from this movie is funnier: the one at the expense of the mentally handicapped, or the one at the expense of sex workers.
The 12-year-old in the fake mustache informs Hex that his assistance is desperately needed to stop a guy with no superpowers and no visible source of money, manpower, or influence. Hex agrees because he needs some way to gracefully exit the She-Lich’s accursed boudoir.
And on and ahead barrels this brakeless fart-train of a movie. Tune in next time for cage-fighting lizard-men, animal cruelty, and corpse desecration, none of which is as interesting as it sounds!