Jane Got a Gun, But Not the Balls to Use It

Posted: January 30, 2016 in Drama, Reviews, Western
Tags: , , , , ,

jane-got-a-gunIf you’re going to make a revenge flick, don’t outsource the acts of vengeance. In particular, if you are scripting a rape-and-revenge movie, empower your heroine to do the heavy lifting and genital severing on her own. Maybe I Spit on Your Grave is not your cup of Earl Grey, but at least, that film had the courage of its convictions.

Jane Got a Gun, but she ain’t got the balls to use it for too much of this genre wannabe flop.

Masquerading as a Western, the movie has Natalie Portman ping ponging between men whose missions are to impregnate and protect. The narrative structure (a too kind term for the convoluted time shifts the script subjects us to) goes through multiple flashbacks of four, seven, and ten years before the present to tell us what we already know.

Jane Hammond (Portman) is knocked up by her fiancé, Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton), before he heads off for the Civil War. No Walk of Shame for Jane – she goes by wagon train to New Mexico, although it’s the bad guys that end up pulling a train on Jane. The baddest of the guys is an unrecognizable Ewan McGregor whose preparation for the role seems to have been limited to rote memorization of his lines.

One of the gang doesn’t bang, and he rescues Jane instead. Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich) even has the good grace to give her a substitute daughter for the one that didn’t make it. When McGregor and his boys eventually decide that it’s time to get even, they put five bullets in Old Bill and then track him and Jane down to finish the job. Naturally, Jane runs off to find her ex, whom she hires the same way she would a contractor to redo the kitchen.

Portman is a big part of the problem. As an actress, she’s attractive, but not appealing. Her screen persona does not evoke empathy. She generally comes off as aloof and slightly arrogant – a combination that does not serve her well here. The script is not her ally either. The meandering story throws off the narrative beats, so there are no external triggers to guide the viewer’s visceral need for revenge or satisfaction from the act. Portman does go full Charles Bronson in one scene, but it’s too little, too late.

Jane Got a Gun suffered through near legendary problems on its way to the Big Screen. It lost its original director, its male lead, its distributor, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, 175 extras. The shame is that there is no Burden of Dreams to salvage this Fitzcarraldo. We are left with a work that would have been better by being less. If the filmmakers had skipped any pretenses of art and settled for entertainment, the end result might have been much improved.

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