Release: 22nd August 2016
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
Young mother Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman) finds herself in a gang’s cross-hairs once again when her husband, Bill “Ham” Hammond (Noah Emmerich) stumbles home riddled with bullets after duelling with the ‘Bishop Boys’ and their malicious leader, Colin (Ewan McGregor). With the vengeful crew hot on Ham’s trail, Jane has nowhere to turn but to her former fiancée Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton) for help in defending her home against invasion.
Imagine the premise if you will, a Star Wars in which Queen Amidala must team up with Uncle Owen in a bid to protect herself and her outlaw husband (we will say, Anakin, for arguments sake) from an evil Obi Wan Kenobi. Stick a six shooter in their hands and a ten gallon hat on their heads, and you’ve got Gavin O’Connor’s dishwater favoured Western, Jane Got a Gun.
For the longest time it seemed Brian Duffield’s script was to remain unproduced. It made the Black List for 2011 and set expectations high with the hiring of Lynne Ramsay to direct and Natalie Portman to star. But then the cinematic equivalent of the ‘Hokey Cokey’ began. Michael Fassbender was in then out, Joel Edgerton shook it all about moving from role to role, then Jude Law turned it all around to replace Fassbender. Some knees where bent (production stopped), arms stretched (rewrites took place, with Edgerton leading the way), Bradley Cooper popped up and after a bit of rah-rah-rah, Ramsay was gone and Warriror director Gavin O’Connor took over with Portman, Edgerton and newly cast Ewan McGreogr. This tumultuous production shows through in spades, as what Jane Got a Gun has ended up becoming is a patchy and dull ode to the damsel in distress, which becomes more about the man who loved the woman than the woman herself. She may have got a gun, but Jane gone and lost a leading role.
O’Connor has proved himself to be a pretty competent director, with a natural eye for emotional depth and the ability to explore brutality in a meaningful way. Edgerton, as well as being a gifted actor, has shown some promise as a screenwriter with the likes of Felony and The Gift; while Portman is an excellent young actress. So how, they each managed to systematically take a dump all over this homestead action flick is a wonder to behold. From its seemingly haphazard kitschy flashbacks (how do you make a hot air balloon cringey!?), to the flatfooted and uneven pacing, Jane Got a Gun is about as engaging and enjoyable as watching Ewan McGregor try to master an American accent. Then when things are all tied up in a neat bow, it seems O’Connor is intent on hammering home the idea that he really couldn’t care less about making this film worth the agony. It is a film as contrived as they come.
There are, very sparsely, moments worth the effort. An early visit into town for Jane proves shocking, and the relationship between Edgerton and Noah Emmerich’s Bill Hammond provides at least some tension and nuance. But it’s the cinematography which wins out most; especially with a rather inventive use of bullet holes and fire in the 3rd act showdown. With far better “feminist Westerns” on offer in recent years, and the choice of excellent contributions such as Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman, Brit Marling’s similarly themed The Keeping Room, and Michelle Williams vehicle Meek’s Cutoff, you’d be hard pressed to find any reason what-so-ever to give Jane Got a Gun any attention at all.
Film Grade: D-
Special Features Grade: F
There is one question that will circle in your mind the entire time you are watching the film. The question is, “why am i bothering?”