Jane Got a Gun

 

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Despite its famously troubled production history, this Western is no disgrace.

 

Jane Got a Gun

Troubled shootin': Natalie Portman and co-scripter Joel Edgerton

 

Originally Jane Got a Gun was to have been directed by the British independent filmmaker Lynne Ramsay and at various times it appeared that leading roles would be taken by Michael Fassbender, Jude Law and Bradley Cooper. That none of this came about was a well publicised fact and it is understandable therefore that one should approach the version that has now appeared under the direction of Gavin O’Connor with apprehension. Consequently it is pleasing to be able to report that this finished product is highly watchable and well played by Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton (who also earns a credit for contributing to the writing of it) and Ewan McGregor.


My praise for it does not mean that it is in any way a memorable achievement, merely (although to use that word sounds condescending) that it is a good piece of entertainment in its own genre. The story told is set between 1864 and 1871 and the Jane of the title (Portman) is a wife and mother who, with her husband (Noah Emmerich) badly wounded, has to do what she can to protect her home from a band of outlaws led by one John Bishop (McGregor). For help she turns to the man she had loved earlier (Edgerton) whose departure to fight in the American Civil war had led to her believing back then that he had died.


The film starts in 1871 with the key situation that finds Jane’s home threatened and uses flashbacks at intervals to fill in the crucial earlier history. One does sense that these scenes are arbitrarily inserted whenever the audience requires the information that they contain, but at least they are never confusing. Possibly the material was laid out differently when Ramsay was interested because as presented now Jane Got a Gun can only be categorised as a macho western. That is so despite the film giving a woman a leading role and consequently it is much less interesting than 2013’s The Homesman which made the situation of women in the Wild West central to its concerns. But Portman and Edgerton are well cast so that, even if the plot is not entirely without improbabilities (such as the lack of care taken by the villain in the climactic scene leading to his demise), the film does come across successfully. It works both as a love story and as an actionful Western of the modern kind (the certificate is “15”). Ultimately, then, one emerges from Jane Got a Gun feeling that, although it might have been something else entirely, it plays very confidently on its own terms.  

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Noah Emmerich, Ewan McGregor, Rodrigo Santoro, Boyd Holbrook, Alex Manette, Todd Stashwick, James Burnett, Sam Quinn.


Dir Gavin O’Connor, Pro Terry Douglas, Aleen Keshishian, Natalie Portman and others, Screenplay Brian Duffield. Anthony Tambakis and Joel Edgerton, from Duffield’s story, Ph Mandy Walker, Pro Des Tim Grimes and James F. Oberlander, Ed Alan Cody, Music Marcello de Francisci and Lisa Gerrard, Costumes Terry Anderson and Catherine George.


1821 Pictures/Boies/Schiller Film Group/Handsomecharlie Films-Lionsgate.
98 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 22 April 2016. Cert. 15
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