"Revenge gets ugly." That's the tagline for director Jimmy Hayward's new blockbuster disaster, Jonah Hex, which is based on a 1970s comic book series. The titular antihero, whose face is horribly scarred, is the only the first of many ugly things about the movie. There's also the disgusting snake man, and then the really hideous stuff, like Megan Fox's acting, the absence of narrative, the exploitation of violence, an overabundance of loud and fast action sequences, and, ultimately, the glorification of vengeance.
Jonah Hex doesn't have much of a story. Through a mildly creative opener and distracting flashbacks, we get a vague understanding of the backstory. The rest of the film is made up of a mindless, frenetic, and banal revenge plot—mainly of the title character trying to hunt down the man who killed his family.
The protagonist, Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin), is a disgruntled Civil War veteran who fought for the South not because he agreed with the army's ideologies, such as slavery, but because he opposed the American government. A skilled and fearless gunslinger, he quickly became a war hero, notorious for taking down hundreds of enemies all by his lonesome. But when his commanding officer, Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), grew heartless and started murdering innocent people—women and children—Hex had had enough.
When Turnbull's son Jed dies, he blames Hex, who winds up in the hands of Turnbull and his men, including Burke (Michael Fassbender), a psychopathic Irishman with a bowler hat and tattoos. The stone cold soldiers murder Hex's wife and son right before his eyes and mutilate the right side of Hex's face with a branding iron so that, according to Turnbull, he'll never forget that day.
And he doesn't. After nearly dying—he's saved by Crow Indians whose mystical healing powers give Jonah some sort of semi-supernatural powers—Hex becomes a bounty hunter, pledging vengeance on Turnbull.
While sleeping with a gun-wielding prostitute, Lilah (a half-naked Megan Fox), Hex is greeted by a knock on the door from Union soldiers, who—in a personal message from the President—inform him that Turnbull is building a super weapon that will allow him to destroy and take over the world. Predictably, Hex jumps at the chance to avenge his family's deaths—leaving the gun-totin' Lilah behind. (She shows up again later, but plays a relatively small role in the movie.)
The rest of film is merely the scarred cowboy trying to execute vengeance, taking the form of ridiculous, shoddy action scenes that start off mildly impressive but become obnoxious as minutes pass—i.e., Hex dropping bad guys with machine guns mounted on his horse. In the spirit of Michael Bay, the final 20 minutes are one gigantic action sequence full of implausible stunts and explosions and a predictable finale, all while annoying heavy metal music blares in the background. Hayward and cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen, who also shot Transformers and G.I. Joe, make artless clatter worse than the smoke and mirrors in those movies.