Apr 23, 2020
Jonah Hex (2010): a recap (part 3 of 6): Clods and generals
Last time on Hex Wrecks the Cineplex: Disfigured ex-Confederate bounty hunter Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) narrowly escaped an extremely dumb trap laid by crooked lawmen. He retired to his favorite watering hole for a spot of tortuously dull pillow talk with his prostitute girlfriend (Megan “Third Best April O’Neill” Fox). Suddenly, army dudes burst in and recruited him to find General Quentin Turnbull (John “John Malkovich” Malkovich), a vengeful ex-Confederate general long thought dead, who’s trying to build a superweapon to threaten the newly re-United States.
Oh, also, Hex is magic and can talk to corpses. Don’t fret if you forgot that; the movie forgets it too.
The soldiers lead Hex to an Army encampment where the still-unnamed lieutenant played by Will Arnett is getting a close shave, so that superciliousness can ooze directly out of his pores with no resistance.
The lieutenant makes it clear that he hates Hex. Why? Because that’s how they’ve decided this movie should go, that’s why. “The president seems to think you’re special; magic, even,” he snipes.
“You don’t know, do you?” Hex asks, presumably referring to his magic powers.
“Oh, we know,” the lieutenant says. He stands up. “What I don’t know is why we’re even bothering with you.” Uh… I dunno, the whole “magic powers” thing? He then offers to show him something.
“This is the future, Hex. Intelligence. Information. With our sophisticated network, men like you will be a thing of the past.” It’s not clear what he means by “men like you”. Bounty hunters? People who can talk to the dead? Southerners?
One of the workers gets electrocuted and falls off the pole. “Future’s bright,” Hex quips.
“Now you listen to me, bounty hunter,” the lieutenant says, like it’s the worst insult he can think of, instead of literally what the guy is. “I happen to have quality intelligence that says Turnbull and his band of bastards are headed northeast of here, to Springfield, Georgia.”
Hex asks how he came by this “intelligence”, and even though the man used to be a soldier, he smirks at the word “intelligence” like it’s the goofiest shit he’s ever heard. The lieutenant gestures to a cage just outside of camp. He says the man in that cage was seized from Turnbull’s train raid and “told us everything we needed to know.” Unfortunately, the man died while being interrogated.
Glossing riiiiiight over how exactly the man died—it was probably the flu or something!—Hex saunters over to the cage to finally give the viewer a look at his powers. He grabs the corpse’s hand,…
…and it quickly turns pink and fresh again.
“What’s happenin’ to me?” the man asks.
“You’re dead, friend,” Hex reports. Almost immediately, the poor sap’s skin starts burning with an audible sizzle, as if Hex is me and the man is hash browns.
“I can make it stop,” Hex says. “See, what I done to you is unnatural; keep you out of the ground too long, you’re likely to just burn right on up. Seems like the fresher dead you are, the quicker it happens.”
“Now, bein’ dead, you can see the comings and goings of anyone you knew in life.” That’s… convenient? “Where’s Quentin Turnbull?” Ah, so when the lieutenant said the man had told him “everything” he needed to know, that didn’t include the location of the guy they’re looking for. Good thing they brought in a seasoned outlaw like Hex, who would know to ask questions like that!
But because this movie badly needs padding out, it turns out that this fella and Turnbull didn’t know each other, even though they took part in the same train raid. Sigh. Hex keeps holding the guy’s hand, and he chars and flakes like a crisp marshmallow until he finally spits out the name of the guy who recruited him. “Royal Slocum. Runs a fight tent out in South Carolina.”
Hex flashes back to the same scene of his unit getting captured that we saw in the beginning montage. Only this time, there’s a shot of another dude who is presumably Slocum.
They couldn’t have just worked him into the original montage. That would have made everything too… what’s the word I’m looking for? …coherent.
Hex picks up a handful of soil from the ground and sprinkles it on the dead man. He sighs in relief and his burn marks disappear. “Dirt likes dead, dead likes dirt. Simple as that.” This detail sounds significant, but is never brought up again.
An echoing sound like somebody shaking a piece of sheet metal creeps into the edges of the soundtrack. Both Hex and the dead man hear it. “Them’s likely hellhounds,” Hex explains. “Reckon they smell fresh meat; waitin’ for you when I let you go, no doubt.” So… Hell is real in this movie? And by extension, the DC Cinematic Universe? Why isn’t the man in Hell already? Is Hex still able to talk to people after they’ve gone to Hell? Come on, Hex, you just gave us two straight minutes of infodump, another sentence or two wouldn’t hurt.
“I wouldn’t try to pet ‘em if I were you.” Ugh. Fine. Not like that’s ever mentioned again, either.
Hex lets go of the man, who instantly re-corpses. He turns back to the lieutenant. “I’m headed southeast,” he says. Oh, get bent, movie. Springfield, Georgia is to the northeast of wherever they’re at, but South Carolina is to the southeast? That’s geographically impossible.
Hex gallops away. On the way, we’re treated to a flashback of him burning off Quentin Turnbull’s brand with a hot hatchet blade. His burn makeup is remarkably bad; it looks like someone smashed a pizza bagel on his cheek.
Continuity alert: the burn mark doesn’t match the brand. The “T” is inside the “Q”, which wasn’t the case before.
Cuts to Charleston, South Carolina. We know that’s the place because, for the first and only time in the movie, a caption pops up and states the location. Turnbull is meeting with Wes Bentley, who’s apparently the go-to guy for wretched movies about comic book antiheroes (see: Ghost Rider). He’s playing a corrupt southern aristocrat with the most magnificent mutton chops you’ve ever seen on someone so effete.
Bentley’s doing such a hammy southern gentleman accent that I half expect him to mention the eleven herbs and spices in his chicken recipe. He protests that, although he’s been successful in providing Turnbull with the routes to top secret ships, he doubts he can get what Turnbull is asking for in this case. Turnbull says he knows that he will, because Turnbull’s paying handsomely, and Bentley’s character is “no more capable of turning down a profit than a maggot is of turning down a carcass.” Quick question, relevant here: where’s Turnbull getting all his money?
Turnbull expertly schmoozes Hairy Cheeks by belittling him, throwing drinks in his face, smashing his glasses, and choking him with the head of his cane, almost that abruptly. “This country will not see its second century,” he vows. Because if there’s one thing that motivates amoral profiteers, it’s promising to destroy their source of income.
What he’s after is the triggering device for the superweapon he’s building, which turns out to be Marcellus Wallace’s soul.
Naw, just kidding you. It’s actually—and I quote That Fucking Guy—“pretty orange balls.”
That Fucking Guy assures his skeptical henchman that the balls will “turn the world to dust.” Sorry, “tehrn te wahrld to doost.” Isn’t it interesting how Michael Fassbender, who is Irish, always sounds the most fake when he actually plays an Irishman? And furthermore, why is Turnbull’s second-in-command Irish? Is Jonah Hex trying to make a clever historical allusion to the widespread war-related grievances among the Irish-American community in the Union states?
The same night as the raid on the facility (or possibly on a different night), Hex’s mighty horse has propelled him hundreds of miles to South Carolina in the space of a single day, maybe. I’ve never seen a movie that had this much contempt for its own timeline. His destination is a giant tent where people are betting on a bare-knuckle brawl. Michael Shannon, one of my favorite actors working today, is ludicrously overcast as the emcee.
One of the fighters is a normal human being, and one appears to be some kind of feral monster called the “Snake-Man” who has jagged teeth and spits poison.
Hex catches up with Slocum, who’s sitting right in the front row, and everyone’s too busy watching the sham fight with the hellbeast to notice Hex walk right up and grab him by the throat. Hex hesitates and says he he’ll make up his mind whether to kill Slocum based on what Slocum has to say.
Slocum doesn’t want to talk. “You put your best friend in the grave,” he hisses. “Betrayed your regiment. For what? Honor? Ain’t no honor in war.”
Slocum unfortunately doesn’t know where Turnbull is, and it doesn’t occur to Hex to just kill him and use dead-person clairvoyance to find out. But for someone who doesn’t know that Turnbull’s alive, he’s doing an awful good job at a sales pitch to join Turnbull’s army. “What if I told you it’s not too late? That we can still bring this unholy union of states to its knees? Don’t you want a second chance?”
“Alright,” Hex gravels. “I’ve decided I am going to kill you.” Slocum decides this is a perfect moment to alert his bodyguards, who HAVE BEEN RIGHT BEHIND HEX THE WHOLE TIME.
Slocum tells his guards to “toss ‘im in.” They hesitate for reasons that are anybody’s goddamned guess. Hex, who doesn’t seem to mentally register that he’s about to die, repeats, “Slocum, where’s Turnbull?”
“Why don’t you ask your dead friend Jeb?” Slocum taunts. “I reckon you can catch up with him in Hell!”
“You know, Colonel,” Hex smirks, “that’s a mighty good idea.”
With that, he hits the bodyguards with a metal rod he had secreted someplace, and tosses Slocum into the pit where the Snake-Man has just finished murdering Human-Man. Snake-Man’s jaw unhinges and he drips acid from his mouth before striking.
Hex escapes without really trying to, and encounters some dickheads taunting a dog outside. He kicks all their asses just for shits ‘n’ gigs, and tells the dog, “Just jealous of your good looks, boy.” The one guy left standing is immediately mauled by the dog, causing him to drop a torch he was carrying for some reason. In seconds, the tent is engulfed in flames. The dog and absolutely no one else follows Hex away from the tent.
That brings us to the end of part 3. Join us next time as Hex decides to take time off from his quest for vengeance and go to trade school to better himself.