I don’t respond well to westerns but I love a good ass-kicking heroine, and “Jane Got A Gun” delivers just that. Try to ignore the miscasting of Natalie Portman as the titular Jane and relish the perfect casting of Joel Edgerton as a rancher who helps her defend her home against a gang of ruthless outlaws. Ewan McGregor, playing an unintentionally campy sort of Black Bart villain complete with a giant black hat and horrendous fake teeth, is shamefully wasted here.
Director Gavin O’Connor seems ill equipped to handle a western and it shows: while the story fits the formula (outlaws are a’comin’ so let’s get some guns and hole up in our homestead and shoot ’em all when they come for us), it’s visually unappealing (washed out images make the film look drab, and confusing editing that jumps around makes the movie feel like there are big chunks of story missing). However, the script here is really good and I genuinely cared about the characters. Fans of the genre will find this worthy of a viewing.
The extra half star rating is for the charming (and misbehaving) white horse who steals the show in every scene he is in. Keep an eye on that equine, he is one to watch.
Anchored by strong performances by Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton, “Jane Got a Gun” is a simple story, well-told. The movie is set in the bad old days of the American West where murder, thievery and white slavery are commonplace and the line between good and evil cannot be clearly drawn and the ability to kill, and kill well, is a highly-valued talent. In 1870s New Mexico, life is driven by the categorical imperative, and Jane is forced by circumstances to take lives to protect her own and those of her family.
The Western has all but fallen out of favor with the modern movie-going public, however movies like this one remind us that the setting can serve as a powerful backdrop for fresh new stories that can reinvigorate the genre. Like the “The Homesman” in 2014, “Jane Got a Gun” is a rare female-driven Western, one that features an expansive landscape but a story that is small and simple in scope. And like that movie, this one is worth watching.