Film Review: “Jane Got a Gun” lacks the Western thrill
By REBECA MURPHY
The weekend rolled around and I was ready to head to the theater, however, my options were limited. There were only three options, and among them was an unknown Western film, “Jane Got a Gun,” starring Natalie Portman and directed by Gavin O’Connor.
To my surprise and disappointment, there were only five people, other than myself, who were in the Fredericksburg Regal 14 Theater on Saturday evening to see the newly debuted movie.
As I waited for the featured presentation to begin, I whipped out my phone to do some research as to why I had not heard about this movie before getting to the theater, and why there was such a lack of interest on opening weekend.
According to The New York Times, the production actually started in 2013, but failed to stay on production schedule due to the lack of commitment from the original director and the movie’s original distributor, Relativity Media, going bankrupt. Without prior screenings for reviewers, the final film was released by Weistein Company, which led to poor marketing and mediocre reviews.
The film takes place in the mid-late 1800s, and follows Jane Hammond, played by Natalie Portman, as she prepares to save her outlaw husband, Bill Hammond, played by Noah Emmerich, from a gang known as the Bishop Brothers, who are out to kill him. Bill is a fur trader and former member of the gang who is wanted for stealing Jane from the gang leader, Colin McCann, played by Ewan McGregor.
Jane and her daughter, Katie, encounter a bullet-ridden and barely alive Bill riding up to their New Mexico home with news of the gang coming to kill him. Jane immediately takes Katie to a friend for safety and rides to see ex-fiancé, Dan Frost, played by Joel Edgerton, for help protecting her family. Dan stubbornly refuses, but changes his mind when he finds her in town confronted by a tense situation with a gang member.
Jane offers Dan money for his assistance to put an end to their romantic past. As Jane and Dan prepare by gathering ammunition, guns and making kerosene-filled Mason jar bombs in the front yard, Bill is in the house dying from his gunshot wounds. Dan finds himself alone on the bedside of Bill, drinking whiskey and contriving offensive last words to the nearly dead man about his criminal life and discontent with stealing Jane.
With the anticipation for the cliché “shoot ‘em up” scene, I was quite bored with the long wait. The film had too many unnecessary flashbacks, although they did fill in details of Dan and Jane’s relationship.
This is portrayed in a flashback to Dan leaving Jane to fight in the war, however, with thinned anticipation of Dan’s return and with child, Jane heads west, traveling with the Bishop Brothers. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn how Bill fell in love with Jane. He approached McCann about asking Jane’s hand in marriage, however, McCann offered little to no approval due to his belief that Jane was his personal property. Jane gives birth to Dan’s daughter, Mary, who is later believed to be dead when Bill rescues Jane from a ‘cat house’ where she was involuntarily kept by the Bishop Brothers.
The story progresses, leading to a gunfight between Jane, Dan and Bill and the Bishop Brothers. The fight scene was intense and entertaining, but seemed easy and too short. For the courtesy of other viewers, I will not spoil the ending, but I do find it to be the most cherished part of the film.
I felt Portman’s natural beauty was well presented in her character, but lacked the strong female protagonist I was expecting. If the writers were attempting to create a feminist character, they failed. As for the villain, McCann, he was not well represented, especially with his lack of screen time.
However, I think the cinematography was a positive element to this film, nothing seemed cheesy or fake, which can be hard to achieve in a Western film. I would give the film 3.5/5 stars due to the insubstantial plot and slow pace.