REVIEW: “Jane Got A Gun”

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Aside from its patently awkward title, Gavin O’Connor’s “Jane Got a Gun” still had a draw, namely its two stars Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton and its tight-knit story in a Western setting. Unfortunately it became better known for the carousel of people joining and then leaving the film as well as the distribution turmoil. The Weinstein Company eventually dropped the film into the January wasteland of releases. Predictably it bombed.

It’s amazing that the film was ever completed. Michael Fassbender, Jude Law, and Bradley Cooper were all cast in important roles but left the project. Director Lynn Ramsay left and was replaced by O’Connor. Cinematographer Darius Khondji left and was replaced by Mandy Walker. Brian Duffield’s script received substantial rewrites by Joel Edgerton and Anthony Tambakis. That the film manages the cohesion it does is impressive.

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But I think all of those production woes put up some insurmountable hurdles. While there is a simple but interesting premise, “Jane Got a Gun”struggles to sustain any level of energy. It putters along towards its obvious conclusion giving us a few good character moments but not enough to save the film from its mediocrity.

Portman plays Jane Hammond who has settled down on a patch of land with her daughter and husband Bill (Noah Emmerich). But Bill can’t shed his outlaw ways. After wrangling with a gang called the Bishop Boys and their leader John Bishop (Ewan McGregor), he returns home full of bullets and with the gang hot on his heels. What a great guy.

With Bill incapacitated Jane asks her ex-fiancé Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton) to help her protect her husband and house. The two must navigate several emotional mine fields include their past relationship and Dan’s glaringly obvious (and reasonable) disdain for Bill. The movie plants itself here for a bit exploring the history of these two through a number of pointed conversations and flashbacks. It doesn’t add much to the film and only pushes back the inevitable conclusion.

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I certainly can’t fault the performances although there are moments where Portman struggles mightily with her Old West accent. Edgerton is good even though his character isn’t nearly as layered as he could have been. Ewan McGregor is fun in a cheesy, evil, mustache-twirling way. The problem is I’m not convinced the movie is intentionally playing him that way.

In the end “Jane Got a Gun” is the definition of bland. Its faults aren’t egregious or due to creative incompetence. It simply lacks that pivotal spark in the relationships, in the dialogue, and even in the action. The frustration comes in knowing it isn’t a terrible film. It’s just a flavorless western that can’t seem to capitalize on its decent ideas.

VERDICT – 2.5 STARS

2.5 stars

 

 

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26 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Jane Got A Gun”

  1. Good review! I myself was not a big fan of the film. I found the characters to be flat, just like the visuals, whereby the film became quite boring, which was all quite disappointing, because I’m a fan of “Warrior”, also a film directed by Gavin O’Connor and last year’s “The Accountant” was pretty good too.

  2. I did think this was a bit of a mess… you can tell there had been rewrites and it never really seems to be going anywhere, which is a shame considering the talent involved (and the talent that left!). I enjoyed McGregor here, too – he’s the only person who seems to be having fun, though I’m not sure it’s the right movie for that!

  3. Hey bro. Sorry for my tardy visits these days. Haven’t been doing the rounds like I used to.

    I have always been drawn to this to see what the fuss is about. Such a shame that it was plagued with production issues. I’d loved have to have seen a Lynne Ramsey/Fassbender deal.

    • Oh no worries my friend. Trust me, I know how live tends to interfere with our movie watching and blog visiting. Great to hear from you though. Hope you’re getting to squeeze in a few good movies here in there.

      • Always watching something here or there, man. I should make more of an effort to pop by, though. You’re one of the few remaining bloggers that has lasted the pace from what I would call “my crowd”. So many have packed it in.

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