Jane Got a Gun

Year: 2016
Production Co: 1821 Pictures
Director: Gavin O'Connor
Writer: Brian Duffield/Anthony Tambakis/Joel Edgerton
Cast: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich, Rodrigo Santoro

It's easy to dismiss Jane Got a Gun as a sunburned revenge story/soap opera/western. There's nothing really wrong with it, but there's not a real lot that stands out either.

Maybe it was the notoriously troubled production that made it seem like a lot more care was being taken than the final product contains. Like Accidental Love, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen or The Fountain, the narrative about how much trouble Jane Got a Gun was to make overshadowed any discussion about the movie itself.

Michael Fassbender and Jude Law were cast and signed up, but Fassbender clashed with director Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin), and eventually had to pull out altogether to film X-Men: Days of Future Past – the last one before Apocalypse, which tells how long it's all been going on.

Before long Bradley Cooper was given the role of the villain, but it again dragged on so much he had to leave because of his own schedule. Then, after Ramsay had been arguing with her producer over money, she simply failed to show up for the first day of shooting. Gavin O'Connor (Warrior) stepped in and the result after all that drama is just a bit... meh.

Early chatter about the film was about it being a uniquely feminist Western – possibly the reason a director as distinctive as Ramsay signed on. But it seems like any girl power pretensions were either watered down or cut out in a subsequent pass of the script or the final edit, which might explain the fairly hollow husk the whole thing has ended up.

The story is about a woman, Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman) in an atypical flyspeck town in the old West, who hires drunk ex con Dan (Joel Edgerton) to help defend her home against a notorious gang out to kill her husband Bill (Noah Emmerich).

The emotional twist is that Jane and Dan used to be lovers, the latter going off to fight in the Civil War and leaving Jane to marry the only decent man for miles around.

So when Bill comes home shot up and injured by Bishop (Ewan McGregor) and his gang, Jane knows he's going to come and finish the job as soon as he figures out where Bill and Jane live.

In desperation she goes to Dan for help, who initially wants none of it after Jane's broken his heart. But he's a sucker for her pretty face so he reluctantly agrees to train her how to shoot and try to block out his feelings as she tends to her injured husband. Before long the siege is on as Bishop and his goons descend on the Hammond family home in the dead of night and the bullets start to fly.

There's nothing visually interesting about the film, at times so brown and dusty it looks like it was shot through an Instagram sepia filter. Nothing in the performances, action or plot really stands out either and after being filmed so long ago and going through so much trouble to reach the screen it was hardly worth the trouble.

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