Jane Got A Gun has had a few problems. That included a revolving door of actors getting involved and then backing out (including the likes of Jude Law, Michael Fassbender and Bradley Cooper), and director Lynn Ramsey leaving the production so late in the day that they didn’t know she was gone until she didn’t turn up for the first day of shooting. She was quickly replaced by Gavin O’Connor, who didn’t have a huge amount of time to prepare, which may explain why Jane Got A Gun isn’t all it might have been.
Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman) is a woman living on the rough, tough, wild west frontier of 19th Century America. Her husband (Roland Emmerich) returns home riddled with bullets after a confrontation with the violent Bishop Boys gang, led by the brutal John (Ewan McGregor). They know the Boys are going to want to track him down to finish off the job. Jane decides she needs help and so decides to enlist her ex-lover, Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton).
Despite getting a frosty reception, Dan agrees to aid Jane and her hubby, while in flashback we learn about their previous relationship and Jane’s history with the Bishop Boys.
Jane Got A Gun is one of those films which is nearly excellent but keeps falling short. The cast is talented, but often don’t seem to quite know why they’re doing what they’re doing (and Joel Edgerton’s mumbling doesn’t help). The revisionist, feminist take on western themes has potential, but rather than upending stereotypes often feels like it reinforcing and being a bit of a slave to them.
This last aspect is particularly problematic as it tends to give the whole thing a slightly contrived, been-there-done-that feel, as so many plot developments are a bit hackneyed. It doesn’t help either that at only 98 minutes the movie has a tendency to rush through its characterisation, while simultaneously keeping us waiting a long time for the inevitable final showdown.
Unbalanced is probably the best way to describe it, as it’s unsure whether it’s a gritty art film, mainstream romantic drama or violent western. The film does try to hold it all together and some of the time it succeeds, but it only does so by jamming the different styles together and hoping for the best. As a result, it feels a little disjointed, not helped by having flashbacks where initially it’s difficult to know whether you’ve jumped back in time or not. Perhaps if O’Connor had a bit more time, he’d have pulled it all together a bit better, but as it stands it doesn’t quite work.
Overall Verdict: Lots of promise and some great moments can’t overcome the fact this is an unbalanced western that isn’t all it could have been.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac