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August 2016

Jane Got A Gun

cast: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich, and Boyd Holbrook

director: Gavin O'Connor

94 minutes (15) 2016
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Lions Gate blu-ray region B

RATING: 6/10
review by Ian Shutter

Jane Got A Gun

Since she gave up being Thor's girlfriend, Israeli actress Natalie Portman has needed a really big hit to save her career from a pretty bad case of the doldrums. Is obviously feminist western Jane Got A Gun just the right movie to turn things around for her? Unfortunately, this gritty cowboy story based upon fairytale themes is never quite as successful as its makers (and Portman as a co-producer) might have hoped. Its artistic style and integrity is not particularly impressive, while any commercial merits are probably negligible - due, in part, to the production's troubled history.

Unlike another fairly recent western, Forsaken - which at least had the novelty value of Donald and Kiefer Sutherland playing estranged father-and-son roles that greatly enriched its rather basic reconciliation plot, Jane Got A Gun sticks too stubbornly to familiar classic Hannie Caulder (1971), in which Raquel Welch took up arms against some bad guys. Portman's picture is at pains to be a very serious drama, so there's no fun to be found in it, like the action scenes of Bad Girls (1994) and Bandidas (2006), and hardly even much typical western romance, either.

After outlaw gang the "Bishop boys" have shot-up Jane's hubby Bill 'Ham' Hammond, she rides into the local town of Lullaby, and soon puts a rapist in the "bone orchard". Eventually, Jane hires gunslinger Dan, who used to be her fiancé. Then the narrative plods along for an hour or so with talky reminiscence and assorted flashbacks, but without many happy times for those concerned. With or without morality, or any damn thing else, this is a dour western scenario about mere survival through a hard or cursed life.

While Ham lies practically crippled in bed, and seems not long for this world, its Jane and Dan that set-up homestead defences, awaiting the inevitable arrival of Bishop and his henchmen. What's disappointing is that so much time is spent in preparation for a long siege that we rightly anticipate some equally sustained carnage and gun-fighting. Following the meagre battle, most of which takes place in pitch darkness - rendering its presumed violence moot and nearly void when even climactic bloody death scenes are kept almost completely off-screen, there's a happy ending of sorts. This is appropriate for the movie's clichéd fairytale aspects, but it nonetheless undermines the dramatic impact of Jane's role as a tragic heroine.



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