Miss Portman’s dog day’s just begun. Academy Award winner Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton and Ewan McGregor star in Jane Got a Gun.
Director – Gavin O’Connor
Screenplay – Brian Duffield, Anthony Tambakis & Joel Edgerton
Producer – Natalie Portman, Aleen Keshishian, Zack Schiller, Mary Regency Boies, Scott Steindorff, Scott LaStaiti & Terry Dougas
Rated R for violence and some language
After being tormented by the Bishop Boys gang, led by John Bishop (Ewan McGregor), Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman) and her husband Bill (Noah Emmerich) have started a new life for themselves. But that peaceful life of theirs winds up being short-lived when Bill stumbles home one day riddled with bullets courtesy of John and his gang, who are hot on Bill’s trail.
Desperate to protect her family and home, Jane has no choice but to turn to her former fiance Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton) for help, a pairing that at first proves to be difficult given the painful memories they share together.
No film within the past 5-10 years seems to have been destined for failure more than Jane Got a Gun.
Yes, more than Jupiter Ascending, more than Fantastic Four and more than the three-time delayed Seventh Son.
This film’s troubles date all the way back to 2012 when Natalie Portman was cast as the lead. Miss Portman would be the only constant throughout this film. Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin) was attached to direct around the same time that Portman was cast, and Michael Fassbender would later be cast in August 2012 as Dan Frost, Jane’s ex-lover. Joel Edgerton was cast as the villain, John Bishop, in December.
And let the clusterfuck commence.
In March 2013, Fassbender was forced to leave due to scheduling conflicts with X-Men: Days of Future Past. Ramsay moved Edgerton over to the role of Frost and replaced his vacated role with Jude Law. Not long after Fassbender’s departure, Ramsay would leave the project. The very next day, Gavin O’Connor (Miracle, Warrior) was brought in as her replacement, but his announcement was shared with the announcement of Jude Law’s departure, who left ’cause he signed on solely to work with Ramsay. Then the cinematographer bailed. O’Connor’s screenwriter, Anthony Tambakis, was brought in to rewrite the script. The next month Bradley Cooper signed on as John Bishop, but then a month later he left and would be replaced by Ewan McGregor.
Okay, no one bails from here on out, so the problems end, right? Nope.
The film was originally set for release in August 2014, but earlier that year in April, Relativity Media pushed the film back to February 2015, which was then later moved back again to September 2015. Then in July, Relativity, amid their filing for bankruptcy, would lose their distribution rights, which would be picked up by The Weinstein Company and given a final release date of January 2016.
Jane Got a Gun has cursed written all over it, and unfortunately, it shows in nearly every frame of this picture.
Those expecting a strong, feminist table-turning Western will sadly be disappointed.
Those expecting just a strong Western in general will sadly be disappointed.
Those going in with lowered expectations, but hoping for something that’s at least competent will sadly be disappointed.
With all its troubles throughout its doomed production, you’d think that Jane Got a Gun would be an epic disaster. Boy, I would’ve loved to have seen an epic disaster instead of the somber bore this film ends up being. Yes, with all its time-hopping, inconsequential conflicts and characters I just couldn’t give two shits about, this listless film is certainly a mess, but it’s a very, very, very dull mess.
Though Mandy Walker’s lens does add some flair through the Western landscapes she captures, Gavin O’Connor’s direction can be best described as flatline. It’s one thing to have a restrained approach. Provided the story and characters were there, O’Connor bringing a more subtle approach to the genre might’ve been refreshing, but neither are there and both subtle and restrained aren’t quite the right words to describe O’Connor’s style. Comatose is a more apt description.
A part of me wonders if there’s like 30 minutes of abandoned footage left on the editing room floor, and if so, I’m then wondering if it adds anything to the meandering nothingness that drags this film down. This film, even with all the talent involved, feels incomplete. I mean, you got Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor as your protagonist and antagonist, respectively. Both are very talented, and they’re trying almost as hard with their performances as I was trying not to fall asleep through this, but they get absolutely nothing to do. McGregor, in full Snidely Whiplash mode, is unconvincing, not ’cause of his performance per se, but that writers Brian Duffield, Anthony Tambakis and Joel Edgerton strip him of any menace that he could have had.
John Bishop may leave these characters quaking in his boots, but this guy is such a lightweight villain, Angel Eyes, Frank and “Little Bill” Daggett could kick his ass without even trying.
Then there’s Portman, who like McGregor is at least trying, but there’s nothing to her character. Worst of all, talk about a misleading title. When I hear the name Jane Got a Gun, I think Portman’s gonna kick ass and take names… with a gun, of course. But nope, she’s a damsel in distress.
Which would totally be fine if this film was called Jane Got a Guy to Save Her Family for Her.
Out of the three main actors, Joel Edgerton is the only one whose character contains any form of substance (and as one of the co-writers, what a shocker that is), and the pain and anger he provides Frost over what he’s lost comes off as genuine and slightly heartbreaking. Of course, that’s all due to his performance as the flashbacks themselves don’t add much weight to the story. Does the film deserve such a nuanced performance from Edgerton? No, but hey, at least someone was able to keep me awake.
It’s a shame that with all the talent on board, Jane Got a Gun winds up being as lifeless and unengaging as it is. Even with an earnest, sympathetic turn from Joel Edgerton, the film sorely lacks ideas, interesting characters, excitement and a sense of urgency. It’s just a rushed patch job by the studio that exists simply so it can get its long overdue release and finally be put out of its misery by the millions of moviegoers who will notice the title on the theater marquee and then decide to see something else.
Jane’s got her gun, but she sadly misses the mark.
I give Jane Got a Gun a D+ (★½).