Today: July 20, 2024

Jane Got A Gun

Given that Jane Got A Gun appeared on 2011’s Black List, a list comprised of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood, it’s amazing that it ended up being such a nightmare to get made. Because watching Jane Got A Gun you are continually reminded of what it was meant to be, what it could have been and what it ultimately is.
The amount of talent at one point attached to the film is staggering. The likes of Michael Fassbender, Jude Law, and Bradley Cooper were all set to start before leaving the project for a variety of reasons. Lynne Ramsay, hot off the heals of We Need To Talk About Kevin, quit the project the day principle photography was meant to start. Se7en cinematographer Darius Khondji came and went before Warrior director Gavin O’Connor rode in to save the day and take the reins with the help of his Warrior star Joel Edgerton helping out on re-writing duties.

The story behind the making of the film and the film itself are therefore not dissimilar. Because all along Natalie Portman stood firm as as producer of the film waiting for the dust to settle and ride off into the sunset.

When her husband (Noah Emmerich) returns home riddled with bullets Jane (Portman) discovers John Bishop (Ewan McGregor) and his gang are gunning for both of them. With the odds heavily stacked against her Jane travels to see her former fiance Dan Frost (Egerton) to ask him for his help. Frost however is still stung that Jane moved on having assumed he was dead after the American Civil War.

It’s easy to see why the original idea for Jane Got A Gun was a popular one on The Black List. It’s a Western with a female lead which makes it, if not unique, something of a rarity. And the concept works. You invest in Jane, in no small part thanks to the typically strong yet fragile performance from Portman. You like Frost, again because Egerton, beneath his grizzled look and voice, is clearly a good man damaged by the toils his life has put on him.

It looks stunning, O’Connor and cinematographer Mandy Walker bringing the Western vistas to sumptuous life. What’s more, and it’s an element that could have been explored more, the final act hints at delving into the realms of a home invasion horror but in the guise of a Western. It’s frustrating that having created a series of Home Alone style traps we don’t get to see Jane and Frost go full Macaulay Culkin.

The film’s flaw comes from feeling thrown together. The script jumps around, filling in blanks via flashback that are detrimental to the mood of the piece. Sure we want to know how Jane and Dan got separated, yes it’s nice to guess whether or not husband Bill took advantage of an impoverished and desperate Jane but it feels clunky to do it in the way it does. Things feel tacked on for the sake of clarity rather than letting the audience draw their own conclusions. This is summed up by McGregor’s villain. His hair so blacked up he’s clearly meant to represent a Lee Van Cleef Bad of the piece but at various points, when he’s not almost literally twirling his moustache, you wonder how bad he really is. He doesn’t quite go to the deplorable lengths you want him to in order to receive a nice comeuppance.

Jane Got A Gun is a  solid but scattered genre film that succeeds in being pretty to look at but offers little below the surface.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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