With help from her boozing ex-lover Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton), a woman named Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman) tries to defend her injured husband Bill (Noah Emmerich) from a vengeful outlaw named John Bishop (Ewan McGregor) and his gang of killers in the Old West.
This an early review of sorts for Canadians at least since this film will be available for us via Digital HD on May 17th and be followed by a release on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Video-On-Demand starting May 31st. The nice people at VVS Films were nice enough to give me an advanced copy. This was good for me because I don’t think it was ever released theatrically in Ottawa which is the city where I live. If I knew it was, I definitely wouldn’t have missed it but at least I got to see it now.
I’m not exactly sure why but there haven’t been too many Westerns lately. Maybe people are tired of the genre. I wouldn’t say I am just yet. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of most fast-paced, shoot em’ up action films, but I do enjoy a change of pace on occasion. If not to slow things down a little. With that, here’s another Western in Jane Got a Gun. There’s definitely some star power behind this one with Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, and Ewan McGregor. Genre or not, to me this was still worth a view.
The film does not waste time by setting the scene early on when Jane (Portman) is interrupted by her injured husband Bill (Emmerich). He warns her of what is to come as the gang led by a man named John Bishop (McGregor) is coming for them to get his revenge. The bulk of the film following this serves as buildup for this inevitable confrontation. Early on we see the devotion she has for her husband as she chooses to care for him despite his wishes otherwise and even if it was probably more wise not to do so. You believed this devotion but it was rather one-sided as she did not have much chemistry with Emmerich’s Bill. This was kind of understandable as he was laying in a bed most of the time.
This first section of the film attempts to establish the fact that Jane is an independent woman. This worked well as she appeared to be very determined in her preparation and also by the look on her face while she rode her horse from place to place. Knowing that she couldn’t handle everything herself, she enlists the help of a man with whom she has a pass, Dan Frost (Edgerton), to help. This is when Jane’s so called independence seemed to waver slightly as she became more passive towards Frost. He knew what he was doing and she just followed his lead.
From that moment on, this film felt more like Edgerton’s than Portman’s but that’s okay. Edgerton shined here as Frost as he really brought it here making you believe in his character while making him very likeable. This all made him very compelling to watch. It’s not that Portman was bad, it was just that Edgerton’s character was just more likeable. Portman and Edgerton were good separately but their chemistry lessened the scenes in which they were together. This was a shame since because the film is called “Jane Got a Gun”, one may think the film is about Jane. It would have been better if the film was about Dave.
While the film builds up to the “confrontation”, it attempts to offer backstories between the characters as they all possess a shared history. This storytelling came off as a little confusing as it tries to tell it in the present and also via flashbacks. What made it confusing was that it was hard to tell which was which as they were too similar to each other. The film often switched timelines so abruptly that it was hard for either to really gain any momentum. Because the backstories were messy, it did not give as much weight to the character’s motivations, resulting in a lack of impact.
These backstories continued in trying to establish the film’s villain, John Bishop. Most of the work establishing his character was done in the past. It definitely could have gone further in its depiction of Bishop as we never really got a sense of how evil he was as he never really did much then which also lessened his impact later on. It was definitely hard to take him seriously as a villain either since he unfortunately looks like a cheap-looking Daniel Day Lewis from There Will Be Blood. This will probably either be funny to some or just be sad.
Without giving too much away, after all the buildup to the film’s final confrontation (the film is not overly long at 98 minutes but it still felt long), it ended up being very disappointing and was still exciting but it ended much too quickly. Portman was good here, having her moments early on before stepping back for Edgerton. Edgerton was great here exuding charisma and likeability while handling himself in all the action scenes. McGregor was squandered here and was just silly for reasons I mentioned previously.
Overall, this was still a decent film with a messy story but is elevated by decent action and good performances by Portman and Edgerton.
*some images courtesy VVS Films*