Director: Gavin O’Connor
Cast: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich, Boyd Holbrook, Rodrigo Santoro
Running Time: 94 minutes
The extremely troubled production of this film is something that lingers in the mind whilst watching it. The project’s original director Lynne Ramsay left prior to the first day of principal photography over an issue with producer/financer Scott Steindorff (which resulted in a legal battle) and Gavin O’Conner was brought on board less than 24 hours after Ramsay’s departure. The film also had a three-year wait to be released and passed across the hands of many of Hollywood’s best actors before resulting in the assembled form we have today.
The elements of a stronger film can be seen (the screenplay was featured on the 2011 Blacklist), so it’s a shame that the final product misses the target. JANE GOT A GUN is a fairly standard western; Jane (Portman) must go to her ex (Egerton) for help when her outlaw husband is injured and pursued by a gang, lead by John Bishop (McGregor).
There’s a lot of time dedicated to the relationship between Portman’s Jane and Edgerton’s Dan Frost, which is understandable because it’s the main relationship of the film and the two actors do a good job of delivering it. However, McGregor is criminally underused and his threat to Jane and Frost feels mild and tame, despite McGregor’s best efforts. If more time was spent to building his character and his past with Jane and Frost, then the third act payoff would have been all the more sweeter and the build of Jane would have rung truer. Noah Emmerich, as Jane’s outlaw husband, quite literally spends the whole film in bed, apart from one actual badass moment that leaves you wondering if his role was cut short. Then you’re back to thinking about the troubled production of the film rather than focussing on the film itself.
JANE GOT A GUN feel fairly formulaic in its plot and storytelling, aside from a couple of neat sequences (Edgerton’s failed bluff and any scene with McGregor), up until the third act where some nice twists occur and O’Connor ramps-up the action dial. It’s commendable what the director was going for here, a slow-burner with two interesting characters who have a troubled past that needs to be played out before the final showdown and he does a decent enough job of salvaging what he can after the exceptional circumstances of his hiring. However, sadly, JANE GOT A GUN, despite some good moments, never really does enough to move it from the ‘okay’ territory.
JANE GOT A GUN is available on digital download from August 15th and DVD/Blu-ray from August 22nd.