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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Jonah Hex

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service

"Jonah Hex" (Warner Bros.), based on the popular DC Comics series, tries very hard to be a rip-roaring Western but keeps falling between two stools. The title character is both hero and villain, a crusader for justice but also a man hellbent on revenge.

The period atmosphere is gritty and authentic, but what about all those people rising from the dead, not to mention the alien technology in the firearms?

In short, put reality on hold and watch a comic book come alive in this fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek adventure. At just 81 minutes, this film is a pretty fast read.

We first meet Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) tied to a St. Andrew cross, which is X-shaped, and forced to watch as his archnemesis Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich) murders his wife and son. Turnbull then brands his own initials on Hex's face, and leaves him for dead. Hex's hideous scar becomes a metaphor for his pain and an all-consuming thirst for revenge.

Hex is rescued by local shamans and brought back to life—sort of—with a nifty new skill: When he touches a corpse, it resurrects, allowing Hex time for interrogation and discovery.

This talent comes in handy, as the body count in "Jonah Hex" is enormous: Scores die, by gunshot, ax, fire, dynamite, even rabid dogs. No wonder there always seems to be a lot of empty wood coffins lying around, and schools of ravens circling overhead.

Turnbull, a former Confederate general who never accepted the Union victory in the Civil War, fakes his death. Hex, who served in Turnbull's regiment, channels his unrequited revenge into a new life as a High Plains drifter and bounty hunter.

Only one good woman holds his heart: prostitute Lilah (Megan Fox), who has issues of her own. We never learn what these are, and the corseted Fox is simply Western eye candy (and a far cry from Miss Kitty in "Gunsmoke").

Soon we discover Turnbull is alive, and amassing armies and firepower to restart the Civil War. President Ulysses S. Grant (Aidan Quinn), the fearless Union general, looks mighty afraid in this movie for, as he intones, "Turnbull is building the weapon."

In true comic-book fashion, "Jonah Hex" careens off the rails into fantasy. It seems Eli Whitney, once he invented the cotton gin and new kinds of firearms, drew up plans for the first weapon of mass destruction.

Turnbull obtains these plans, and builds what he calls "a country killer," intent on obliterating Washington on the Fourth of July, 1876. Only one man can stop him: Jonah Hex.

Few are spared a violent end in "Jonah Hex," and director Jimmy Hayward ("Horton Hears a Who!") displays a sadistic fondness for mass murder, including blowing up innocent churchgoers as they leave Sunday service. The destruction is, however, remarkably unbloody, and the camera does not linger long on the victims.

While it is always clear that the bad guys go to hell (when the "hell hounds" can be heard barking, you're in a bad spot), it's hard to condone Hex's fanatical drive for revenge, whatever happened to him in the past.

"Jonah Hex" contains stylized if unbloody violence, including gunfights, brawls, and explosions, implied sexual activity, occult rituals, and some profanity. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Joseph McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.


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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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