Now on Netflix: Jane Got a Gun

She had to take him down easy and put a bullet in his brain...

It may be one of the worst-titled movies in recent memory, but this Natalie Portman vehicle is still a Western. And I do love a good Western. 

Jane Got a Gun was notoriously beset with production issues since the beginning, ultimately delayed several years after its initial release date. If the recent DC Universe woes are any indication, such trouble usually doesn't bode well for the finished product. And to a certain extent, that's the case here. It's hard not to shake the feeling that Jane Got a Gun could have been a better movie, a really powerful alt had things gone differently on set. It certainly would have been a different film had Lynne Ramsay, the acclaimed director of We Need to Talk About Kevin, not left before shooting even began and Gavin O'Connor (Warrior, Miracle) not taken over. 

No, that isn't Tom Selleck.  

No, that isn't Tom Selleck. 

It's 1871 in New Mexico territory. When a Jane's husband Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich) comes home one day with a back full of bullets and a dire warning about the Bishop Boys, a notorious band of outlaws, coming after them, she enlists the help of former soldier and gunslinger-for-hire Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton) to help protect her household and her dying husband. There is a slight complication, however, in that Dan and Jane used to be engaged before he went off to the war. But when he came back, Bill and Jane were married with children. The one interesting bit about the story is the way it flashes back and forth in time to reveal how this particular love triangle came about, and it's got more than one surprise. 

Most of the movie does some deep character development, ultimately building to a less-than-satisfying climactic battle on Jane and Bill's property against the outlaw band. There are some good bits of tension between Dan and Bill, who lies bleeding on the bed for much of the film, but other than that, it's all backstory until the very end. When the Bishop Boys, led by John Bishop (Ewan MacGregor, playing a delightfully over-the-top Industrial Age villain with mustache to match), finally show up and the showdown begins, it's all over a little too quickly for all of the set-up that's been done. And the conclusion is just a tad too predictable and neatly tied up for a film about the hardships of frontier life. 

It's hard to tell what feminist revisionist Western tale this would have been, but probably not this. At some points Jane is an empowered gunslinger herself, at others, she's a helpless victim. It's hard to tell exactly what the filmmakers wanted this movie to be, or say. Still, it has its Western elements, and it should tide you over until The Magnificent Seven remake comes out next month. 

Jane Got a Gun is available now on Netflix. 

Matt GrantComment