Sunday 26 April 2020

Movie Review: Jane Got A Gun (2015)

A traditional western but with a female protagonist, Jane Got A Gun does everything right but nothing too special.

The setting is an isolated home in New Mexico of the 1870s. Bill "Ham" Hammond (Noah Emmerich) is shot-up by the Bishop brothers, but makes it back to his wife Jane (Natalie Portman), warning her the Bishops are continuing their pursuit. With Ham now bedridden, Jane turns to her ex-fiance Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton) for help. He is still sore about how their relationship ended and reluctant to get involved.

As Jane steels herself to confront John Bishop (Ewan McGregor), his brother Vic (Boyd Holbrook) and henchman Fitchum (Rodrigo Santoro), in flashback her history with Dan, Ham and the Bishops before and after the chaos of the Civil War is revealed.

Overcoming a troubled production history, Jane Got A Gun is a sturdy western, checking off many prerequisite elements without necessarily shining in any. Director Gavin O'Connor delivers an auspicious tale with multiple layers of revenge, a love triangle, a looming backs-to-the-wall showdown featuring outnumbered heroes, and a post-Civil War backdrop contributing to unmet expectations.

The film attempts to invest in characters and avoids headlong rushes into action. Pleasing Mandy Walker cinematography, judicious use of flashbacks, and a level-headed tone convey a cautious approach to frontier-inspired human struggles.

The feminist perspective is appropriately modulated for the era. Natalie Portman is in suitably humourless form and the Brian Duffield story sustains its intent for a headstrong woman to drive the narrative. Jane's story pulls together the threads between Dan, Ham and John Bishop, but O'Connor avoids any jarring anachronisms and Jane eventually receives crucial help to improve the odds.

The compact running length of 98 minutes is admirable, but a couple of areas fall short. The nighttime climactic confrontation between good and evil suffers from jerky camerawork, frustrating editing and a general sense of confused visuals. The clipped definition of lead antagonist John Bishop is the most obvious shortcoming. O'Connor does conjure up impressive if illogical vistas of the Bishop gang riding aimlessly enmasse in hostile desert terrain, but Ewan McGregor gets precious few scenes to make an impact, leaving the movie with a dark side void.

Jane not only gets a gun, she also gets herself a satisfyingly old-fashioned if not wholly inspiring western.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome reader comments about this post.