Jane Got a Gun (2016)

Jane Got a Gun (2016)
  • Time: 98 min
  • Genre: Action | Drama | Western
  • Director: Gavin O’Connor
  • Cast: Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich, Joel Edgerton


Jane Got a Gun centers on Jane Hammond, who has built a new life with her husband Bill “Ham” Hammond after being tormented by the ultra-violent Bishop Boys outlaw gang. She finds herself in the gang’s cross-hairs once again when Ham stumbles home riddled with bullets after dueling with the Boys and their relentless mastermind Colin. With the vengeful crew hot on Ham’s trail, Jane has nowhere to turn but to her former fiancĂ© Dan Frost for help in defending her family against certain destruction. Haunted by old memories, Jane’s past meets the present in a heart-stopping battle for survival.

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  • Promises are made to be broken, though love can make them seem everlasting. A pair of lovers, blinded by their splendour in the grass, bid farewell and vow to reunite after the war. She waited, he never returned. Or, by the time he came back, she had already tired of waiting and moved on, disappeared. When the finally set eyes upon one another, years have passed, perhaps even a decade. She has a young daughter and she has a husband, who has been wounded and who has the vicious Bishop Boy gang on his heels. She has swallowed her pride, as she has done many times before in order to survive, and she has come to beseech her former love to help her defend her family and her home from the impending reckoning.

    Who knows what promise Jane Got a Gun originally meant to deliver? It half-buries its key conflict in favour of the usual genre tropes, and yet the showdown itself is but a whimper. This is a film at war with itself – it strives to be a feminist revisionist take on the western, but it also attempts to be a pseudo-origin story of how a woman ends up a badass gunslinger. The ending is infuriating because it fulfills the promise of the former and almost wholly contradicts the latter.

    It’s an odd film, this Jane, which may be no surprise considering the carousel of calamities that befell the project before even a single frame of film was shot. The film was announced in May of 2012, with Natalie Portman as its titular heroine and Lynne Ramsay set to direct, but it wasn’t until March of 2013 when the problems truly began. Michael Fassbender, cast as Jane’s ex-lover Dan Frost, bowed out due to scheduling conflicts with X-Men: Days of Future Past. Joel Edgerton took on his role whilst Jude Law was cast as the Bishop Boy gang’s ruthless leader. Ramsay then departed, with Law following close behind. [Producers alleged Ramsay was “repeatedly under the influence of alcohol, abusive to members of cast and crew and generally disruptive.” Ramsay denied the charges and sued; the case was settled in 2014.] The directorial reins were handed over to Gavin O’Connor. Bradley Cooper replaced Law, then withdrew from the film a month later as the production schedule conflicted with American Hustle, resulting in Ewan McGregor coming on board. Cinematographer Darius Khondji left. Edgerton and Anthony Tambakis were hired to rewrite Brian Duffield’s script, which had featured on the 2011 Black List as one of the most popular unproduced screenplays. Relativity Media, the film’s distributor, fell into financial ruin; the film was picked up by The Weinstein Company and had its release date changed about three times before finally seeing the theatrical light of day.

    With this embattled history, it’s a small miracle that Jane Got a Gun even exists and it’s completely understandable why its shape is so patchwork. The endless flashbacks (were these in Duffield’s screenplay?) swiftly strike one as insufficient band-aids for the holes that plague this story. O’Connor’s workmanlike direction provides a fairly sturdy scaffolding, though one wishes he would have allowed the film’s sole captivating moment to be uninterrupted by said flashbacks. Caressed by the New Mexico moonlight, Jane reveals the often harrowing trials and tribulations she underwent to Frost, whose bitterness dissolves into understanding. It is a scene that arguably sheds light on the true nature of Jane Got a Gun, which is more a ballad of regret and unhealed wounds than that of blood-soaked vengeance.

    The moment also showcases Portman at her strongest because, make no mistake, the film’s one constant during the scant ups and numerous downs of its production is also the one who never should have been attached to the project in the first place. Portman is woefully miscast and fails to convince as a woman hardbitten by life, love and the unforgiving land.

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