Jane Got a Gun is a good example of what a movie can do for you if
you're going in with certain expectations, especially when they're of
an exceptional variety. In the case of this, the word 'troubled' is
putting it lightly for the production, as numerous stars (Fassbender
quit, Jude Law was briefly hired, as was Bradley Cooper, and Edgerton
actually had the role of the *villain*, not the sort of co-hero), and
the director (Lynn Ramsey) left while in the midst of shooting over
problems with the producer and a lack of final cut. It's the kind of
production that has 'disaster' as its mark, and that's not a fair way
to immediately judge a film, at least not initially. What if this was
the next superb western, in a time when there seem to be a good amount
considering how few westerns come out nowadays (i.e. The Hateful Eight,
Bone Tomahawk, and Slow West all in the past year or so)?
So I went into this with an open mind, to see what is in front of me (via Warrior director Gavin O'Connor) and left with the opinion that simply... it's OK. Sometimes a little more than OK, and mostly thanks to a game cast. The premise is somewhat simple initially, that a woman finds that her husband (Natalie Portman and Noah Emmerich respectively) has been shot and though she's tending to her wounds she realizes from him more men are coming after him, so she goes and hires a man (Joel Edgerton) who she used to know... actually in some intimate ways.
The movie has a flashback structure that is not really too new. Matter of fact, by 2016 this sort of thing has become kind of tired; of course the drama is meant to be this siege that develops at their home: they can't ride away since Emmerich's Bill Hammond is too injured, so they'll have to set up some things to make sure they aren't caught like fish in a barrel when Ewan McGregor and his men come. But the bigger issue is that the movie has just a lot of peaks and valleys as far as compelling scenes; when people do pull guns on one another and there's set-up with that we see (the plan to fortify the outside of Jane's home with liquid explosives and such is clever), it's exciting.
What seemed to not work quite so well are the quieter scenes, where confessions are made and that drama has to be tapped as to who did what to who in relationships and the old wounds being scorched. There is one really tumultuous sequence where Bill discovers Jane inside of what seems to be a brothel (or it just is) and after he kills a bunch of people she starts sobbing. Moments of high drama register but it's the quiet moments that fall a little flat, or they don't register as they should in a movie that depends on their quiet moments for impact. And it's not so much the actors at fault - Portman and Edgerton are formidable, and McGregor makes a fine figure with that mustache (a bit of a chip off the Val Kilmer in Tombstone block), and one of America's underrated character actors, Noah Emmerich, is terrific even as a lot of his performance is post-shooting in a bed - but with the script.
Strange since the screenplay was originally on the "Black-List" (best scripts produced that got submitted, across the world basically), and Edgerton actually did work on the script too (whether this was before the production problems or during I'm sure I don't know). It's hard to know if it was due to the producers not allowing final cut - a big reason why Ramsey left, which might have been wise - but as a Weinstein Company release it seems a little fishy, like there may have been better material that got left out or moments put together that don't quite fit.
And yet for all these odd feelings watching it, overall I would recommend it to fans of Westerns (believe me, I've seen weaker offerings), and the climax is really solid. James Got a Gun has some original moments, and yet wrestles with becoming generic at the same time: bad-asses pulling guns on one another has been done for so long and in such gritty tones. Maybe it's missing... a tiny bit of humor(?) It's a strange movie to peg what doesn't work about it, but it's not all bad. For all the hard times it took to get to being completed, I'm glad it exists in some form.
Jane Got a Gun
Action / Drama / Western
Jane Got a Gun
Action / Drama / Western
Jane Got a Gun centers on Jane Hammond, who has built a new life with her husband Bill "Ham" Hammond after being tormented by the ultra-violent Bishop Boys outlaw gang. She finds herself in the gang's cross-hairs once again when Ham stumbles home riddled with bullets after dueling with the Boys and their relentless mastermind Colin. With the vengeful crew hot on Ham's trail, Jane has nowhere to turn but to her former fiancé Dan Frost for help in defending her family against certain destruction. Haunted by old memories, Jane's past meets the present in a heart-stopping battle for survival.
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April 04, 2016 at 06:54 AM