…Is that guy dead?
This was my first thought upon seeing Jonah Hex five years ago. I saw it at an unpopular theatre on five dollar Tuesday. We got there early because, well, because I get there early for movies which are undoubtedly garbage. The credits were still rolling from the previous showing of Jonah Hex, it was an old style theatre, no stadium seating, no digital projection. When we walked into the theatre there was guy sprawled across two seats on one side, head on the plastic top of the seat. He didn’t flinch as we talked, loudly, throughout the entire film. Thankfully when the credits came on again he woke up and walked out of the movie, apparently not aware he’d missed Jonah Hex twice.
You’re not even going to want to miss it once because Jonah Hex is one of the best entries in a new, and incredibly shitty genre. Come with me and I will illuminate to you not only the joys of Jonah Hex, but the Wild Wild Western itself.
That’s Jonah Hex!
The movie opens on a montage interspersed with bad comic book style cartoons while Jonah Hex, played by Thanos himself, Josh Brolin, narrates his back story. This kind of beginning was tired five years earlier when Ghost Rider did it, but that doesn’t stop this movie from really laying into it. Remember: from this time and up until Dark Knight 4: This time with Superman, DC and Warner Brothers hadn’t had any success with DC films that didn’t have a Bat on the poster. Why they were watching Marvel movies from 2005 to copy is inexplicable.
Hex describes how he worked for an extra bad confederate General named John Malkovich (his character name doesn’t matter) who took bloody revenge on Hex for killing his son. John Malkovich doing his best southern-accent-as-done-by-a-space-alien says that his revenge will be to let Hex live after Malkovich kills Hex’s family in revenge. So Hex goes out looking for double revenge against Malkovich, only to have him die in a hotel fire. (Which he totally did right? Cause they’re just going to use John Malkovich in their first scene.)
If the above paragraph makes no sense to you, watch the film and you will see that I’m doing my best.
Also worth noting here that General Malkovich’s main henchman is a horrible Irish Stereotype played by Michael Fassbender. This is before Inglorious Basterds and X-Men so you can attempt to forgive him for wearing a bowler hat and talking like a Lucky Charms ad, but it doesn’t quite work.
Also worth mentioning: everyone in this movie calls Jonah Hex “Jonah Hex,” full name, all the time with maybe four exceptions. I’d get that exact number for you, but I just watched it for the review and I’m not watching it alone again.
The movie jumps forward to when Hex is working as bounty hunter. He’s dragging three bodies into a wild west town apparently administered by Saruman. Hex rides up to the goons that run the town and tries to collect a bounty. When they point out that there were four members of the gang he was required to whack, Hex tosses a severed head in a bag to one of them. “The last one was too fat for my horse.” Then when they decide to just kill Hex and keep the money this happens:
Horse. Mounted. Gatling. Guns.
That’s really all you need to know about this movie: he cut off the fat guys head because he wouldn’t have been able to haul his horse mounted gatling guns.
The thing is, this movie reminded me of another film, and I think there’s a potential for a whole new genre here. So go watch Jonah Hex, come back, and we’ll talk about a brand new type of movie: the Wild Wild Western.
11 years before Jonah Hex, Hollywood decided it needed to make a Will Smith movie every year or no one would go see movies anymore. Having exhausted ways Will Smith could fight aliens, they turned to an adaptation of a relatively popular 60s tv western, and utterly disregarded it the same way Hex would a decade later. The resulting film? Wild Wild West. Both of these movies are far too ridiculous to spoil with synopsis if you haven’t seen them, so instead I’ll point out some new genre conventions, which will help you find your own Wild Wild Westerns.
You cast who in this?
Inappropriate casting is the first and foremost hallmark of the Wild Wild Western. Apparently those who make it can’t help themselves and cram in someone who’s ‘hot right now’ or who will ‘give the film credibility.’ These people will do no research, and alter their acting style in no way. They will also make no attempt to fit in to the time period. Will Smith in Wild Wild West could just as well be in Men in Black, and acts like he is. Megan Fox in Jonah Hex thinks a southern accent is all she needs to accurately portray an 1800s prostitute.
That reminds me…
Any women who turn up in this Wild Wild Western of yours will be prostitutes. Because there’s really no reason they could have other careers like hat shop owners, bakers, or literally anything else. Many of you will point out that Selma Hayek in Wild Wild West is not a prostitute. But she pretends to be one doesn’t she? To blend in.
Let’s turn that villain up to 11!
Your villain will be a scenery chewing nightmare. The filmmakers will find the most overachieving character actor they can acquire, cram him into a role, and he will act the shit out of it. The characters also will make Bond Villains look realistic and restrained. Kenneth Branagh plays Dr. Arliss Loveless, a former confederate general turned steam-powered-wheelchair-bound supervillain. He wants to split the US back up and give it back to its former owners for fun and profit! And John Malkovich plays Quentin Turnbull, a former confederate general turned super terrorist who wants to destroy America for revenge! As you can see, just pick an ex-Confederate. It’s easier than giving them motivation.
Your villain will invariably use some ridiculously complex steampunk superweapon to achieve their goals. There’s nothing wrong with steampunk by any means, but a giant mechanical spider and a massive six shooter that fires dragonballs is mind blowingly weird. And no, I’m not making either of those up. Also expect to see dynamite guns and billiard balls that shoot poison gas.
I mentioned Fassbender’s Boondock Saints fan fiction accent, but I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention that most everyone in these movies is Southern in a way that makes Colonel Sanders sound like Matt Damon. Kenneth Branagh’s Doctor Loveless speaks in an accent so Southern it would have made Jefferson Davis run for the north. Expect your future Wild Wild Westerns to do the same.
Yes, because the only Wild West-y President that bad writers can think up is our whiskey slingin’ hard fightin’ 18th President.
Kevin Cline and Aidan Quinn both make appearances, though Aidan Quinn’s comes off as a bit too responsible.
So there you have it, find your own Wild Wild Westerns, make your own. Maybe someday there will even be a good one. In the meantime be sure to check out Cowboys & Aliens and The Warrior’s Way.