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USA 2015
Directed by
Gavin O'Connor
98 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Jane Got A Gun

The best thing about this Western, whose title pretty much tells you everything that you need to know about it, is something that (unless you've got a sharp eye) you don’t appreciate until you see Ewan McGregor’s name in the end credits. Completely transformed from his usual boy-next-door look he plays John Bishop a frontier bad man who for some reason is out to revenge himself on new Mexico settler, Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich). A shot-up Hammond has returned to his farm and his wife, Jane (Natalie Portman), who realizes that she must get help before Bishop arrives to finish them both off.  The trouble is that the only man she knows who can help is neighbouring settler, Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton), a man from her past who holds her in low esteem.

Jane Got a Gun was originally intended to star Natalie Portman, Michael Fassbender and Joel Edgerton and be directed by Lynne Ramsay as her follow-up to We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011). Fassbender left the project to do an X-Men film, Edgerton moved to the Dan Frost role and Jude Law took his place. Then Ramsay left the film followed in short order by Jude Law who was briefly replaced by Bradley Cooper before Ewan McGregor stepped into the role of Bishop.

A production history like this (and there were more mishaps) is not conducive to good film making. Perhaps had the original configuration stayed in place this might have been an effective film but as it has turned out it amounts to very little – a standard issue story that develops altogether too easily, an improbably gorgeous Portman decked out with lush tresses and designer Western duds, a climactic gun battle that occurs mainly in the dark, insistently twangin’ Southern accents from her and Edgerton and, overall, a lack of momentum as the film keeps flashing back to explain current events.

Had Ramsay stayed with the project this might have been an interesting Western with a strong female lead, which initially appears to be its intent but under the direction of Gavin O'Connor (his previous film the 2011 martial arts punch-up, Warrior, had also starred Edgerton) it is an unremarkable effort. Well, except for McGregor’s bad-man.

FYI: From an Antipodean perspective the film has some added interest. Edgerton co-wrote the screenplay and Lisa Gerrard co-wrote the score whilst DOP Mandy Walker provides typically splendid landscape cinematography,  




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