Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review: Jane Got a Gun

Image courtesy of The Weinstein Company.
Gavin O'Connor's "Jane Got a Gun" is sort of a feminist western, until it suddenly isn't, although the picture is not nearly as bad you might think it to be. The film was originally supposed to be shot by Lynne Ramsay and the cast was to include everyone from Jude Law and Bradley Cooper to Michael Fassbender, while its production was moved back and, then, its release delayed.

That's typically a sign of a catastrophe but, in this case, "Jane" is too by-the-book to be a colossal dud. It's not a bad movie, but it's also far from a good one.

At the beginning of the movie, Jane (Natalie Portman) is alarmed to learn that her husband, Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich), returning home and falling off his horse in a scene that's been in more westerns than I care to count, has been shot and that they are both being hunted by the Bishop gang, whom they fled years before.

Jane had previously been involved with a man named Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton), who was sent off to fight in the Civil War and when Jane's safety was threatened by the Bishop gang - led by a nasty Ewan McGregor - Hammond stepped in, saved her and married her.

So, those expecting "Jane" to be a western featuring a tough female lead might be disappointed to find that the film's heroine is saved not once, but twice, by men upon whom she relies for safety. As she and Hammond hole up in their house and wait for the gang to arrive, Jane enlists the help of Frost, who is still bitter that they never ended up together. He also happens to have some talent with a firearm.

Although the picture includes some gorgeous cinematography in its New Mexico setting, the script has never seen a cliche it didn't like. So, we have the characters waiting as the sun goes down in a home that has "one way in and one way out," while the villains take their time arriving. And there's the love triangle that only adds a slight bit of tension to the story. The film's final shoot-out takes place in the dark and its often difficult to figure out who is shooting at whom and who has been shot, although the picture's coda includes a nice twist involving some bounty money.

"Jane Got a Gun" is a western that plays to the rules of its genre to a tee. Considering how long this film was in production and the talent originally involved, it's a wonder that it's so formulaic. For example, Sam Raimi's "The Quick and the Dead," which also featured a female gunslinger, was far from perfect, but it had style and personality.

"Jane," although not the disaster portended by its myriad of delays, is just a standard western with not a whole lot to distinguish it from other films in its genre.

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