Jane Got a Gun has a rather ignominious distinction of being one of the most publicly troubled productions in recent times, one that's probably only rivaled by the Fantastic Four. Directors dropped out, at least a half a dozen leading actors dropped out and the script was constantly undergoing rewrites onset, red flags were flying up all over the place. Jane Got a Gun is about Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman) who's living an isolated, but comfortable life with her child and husband Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich), who barely manages to make it back home one day after being riddled with bullets by the Bishop gang. After Jane extracts five slugs from his back, Bill ominously warns Jane that the Bishop gang are coming for the both of them and that Jane should leave now, before they get there. Obstinately refusing to leave her home and her husband, Jane turns to her former fiance and war veteran Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton) for help.
It's clear that Jane and Dan didn't part on the best of terms, there's some animosity there, and although the details of how their relationship initially broke down are kept mysterious, we're shown via flashbacks what transpired between the two. I thought the flashbacks were well-placed in the narrative and filled out the characters and their relationship well. The aesthetics of the movie are dusky, barren and a lot of amber. This isn't a western with long, sprawling landscapes of green trees and rivers, no, this is a dry, dirty and bleak landscape where the most you could hope for is green shrubs when it comes to the landscape.
Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton was the glue that really held this movie together for me, with lesser actors it would have been a tedious mess, it was still somewhat of a mess, but I have to admit that it never felt tedious. The weak link was John Bishop (Ewan McGregor), not for lack of trying though, but I never believed he was the leader of a gang of outlaws, but to be fair, he wasn't given a whole lot of time to shine as a villain either. This leads me to another criticism of I have of Jane Got a Gun, it was too short, barely clocking in at 85 minutes long. An extra 30 minutes could have explored Bishop's villainy, their history and their dynamics, which I wanted to see because I was actually enjoying the movie. It's just that everything is given so little time to develop. There were more than a few scenes where I didn't want them to end, but they did, it needed more time to tell its story properly.
The directing felt surprisingly amateurish given the competent director (Gavin O'Connor) or maybe rushed would be a better word for it considering the circumstances. The gun violence was nearly incomprehensible in most scenes though, and while the final shootout was built up to well, there was a lack of verisimilitude to it that the rest of the movie maintained. It was still tense and suspenseful, but it was poorly executed I thought. The ending did leave me with a feeling of it being a lifetime movie though, but all things considered I'm surprised it turned out as well as it did. I think Jane Got a Gun had a lot of potential to be another one of these small westerns that have been making a comeback of late, but it fell short in most areas. Still it was surprisingly satisfying, or maybe that's because my expectations were so low, I'm not sure. I'd tentatively recommend it. There's very little in the way of any perceived feminism as well, it didn't feel like that sort of movie to me.
Written by - The Sentry - 11/03/2016