Gavin O’Connor’s Jane Got A Gun tells the story of a strong young lady, Jane (Natalie Portman) who is preparing for the worst, with the arrival of the Bishop gang. Led by John Bishop (Ewan McGregor), they have promised the very worst for Jane and her husband, Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich). Hammond, once a member of the Bishop gang had fallen in love with Jane, killed five of his fellow gang members and grabbed Jane and made a break for a new life together. Well, the gang did not think to highly of that and as the film opens, Bill has been very badly wounded by the Bishop gang who has caught up to the couple. They promise very bad things if Hammond, now back in his bed with Jane caring for his wounds, is not released. Jane, needing every extra gun she can to defend themselves and their home, enlists the help of a former beau, Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton).
Dan and Jane were a couple before Dan had gone off to fight for the Union in the Civil War. He was captured and not heard from for many years, so Jane figured that he had been killed and his body never found. Naturally, when he returns to see Jane married to another and a man who is in the Bishop gang, Dan is not pleased. The only thing Dan and Jane still share is a daughter and the fact that Dan, despite his attempts to suffocate his feelings for Jane, still loves her. Jane, however, has moved on and that ship has sailed, so to speak. Jane is a feisty and iron willed lady; resourceful and able to do just about anything anyone else can do. She can even shoot a rifle with the best of them.
Jane Got A Gun was actually completed in 2013, but due to a rather sorted production which included a different director, Lynne Ramsay being signed but quitting almost on the first day of shooting. Allegations of fraud were thrown about, crew members quit in support of Ramsay, actors signed to play the leads and dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. The whole production was a mess from start to finish. The film has been sitting on the shelf since 2013 and not until this year has it been released. It did horrible business and everyone wants to forget about this film. I will be the one dissenter who actually found this film to be not bad. Don’t get me wrong. This is not John Ford production, but director Gavin O’Connor has managed to salvage a halfway decent western out of all the chaos.
Natalie Portman shows why she is still such a powerful actress on screen. She radiates true strength and power not only as an actress but as her character, Jane. Yet, there are still scenes where she conveys real pain in a believable way that made my heart ache. Natalie Portman is the driving force behind this film. Joel Edgerton (who worked with O’Connor in the boxing film Warrior) is solid as Dan. He is a dour individual but you understand why. Edgerton penned the script with fellow script writers, Brian Duffield and Anthony Tambakis and they do a decent job of trying to keep the film focused, despite some very distracting flashbacks. The flashbacks are about one too many, as well. It took me out of the film at times, when the flashbacks occur, but I have a feeling that was the filmmaker’s last option, in order to salvage an already plagued production. Ewan McGregor is sufficient as the ruthless John Bishop, but he does not have that much screen time. I wish they had done more with his character.
Jane Got A Gun is nothing we have not seen done before and better, but it features some excellent acting by Portman and Edgerton, a competent script that works, for the most part and beautiful cinematography by Mandy Walker. I was interested and invested in the lead characters. I cared about what happened to them and O’Connor is able to keep the film moving along, despite the numerous flashbacks that were distracting, but needed, I guess. The climax is particularly well crafted and the buildup to it is well executed. If you are in the mood for a western that you have not seen, Jane Got A Gun, far from perfect, is a decent film. Quite an accomplishment considering its sorted past.
Jane Got A Gun – *** out of 5
Jane Got A Gun – Rated R for language, violence and gore
Jane Got A Gun – Run Time is 98 minutes
Jane Got A Gun is now available on DVD, On Demand and on subscription services.