Sunday, January 31

REVIEW: Jane Got a Gun

Directed by Gavin O'Connor
2015 Western
1 hour 38 minutes
The Weinstein Company

Natalie Portman
Joel Edgerton
Ewan McGregor
Rodrigo Santoro
Noah Emmerich
Boyd Holbrook

Before striking a single key for this review, I looked over my entire list of reviews of films just released, and that goes back to late 2011, and I have never given a 1-star rating.  And I think it's high time we change that. 

Not long ago a friend told me he didn't think I'd ever use the 1-star because you like bloody everything.  I paused, thought and concluded he's pretty much accurate.  The real laugh is that I even liked Jane a little.  If I didn't like it even a little, I would have declared no stars.  That's never likely to happen because those films, few as they have been in my entire life, are ones I walk out of.  And I wouldn't do a review on a movie I haven't seen from beginning to end.  So a 1-star it will have to be.  I have my reasons...

Let's tell you about the story and let's count the lines to see how many that takes.  A woman of the 1800s sets out to settle the score with the men who shot up her husband.  That's it.

Wow, bet you've never heard of that western plot before, eh?  Well, c'mon now, Pilgrim, it's been done in John Wayne movies, has been used in Randolph Scott oaters and old Clint has taken a stab at the worn-out plot.  So has Steve McQueen.  Gregory Peck has done it, I think, more than once.  And hasn't just about every male actor who strapped on a six-gun?  Ah, but it's the woman angle, you say.  Well, even there, Raquel Welch handled it in 1971's Hannie Caulder, and really, wasn't Sharon Stone's 1995 The Quick and the Dead about a revenge-seeking woman?  I'm sure there are more.

I would perhaps have given out two stars... despite the fact the acting, while competent, is unexciting, the direction lacked focus and the excessive use of flashbacks slows down the tension the film clearly needs.   Most unforgivable is the hackneyed plot which is why I have to bestow the ultimate indignity of the dreaded one star.  

Someone out there is probably lapping it all up and calling this an homage to some of the great westerns.  But an homage to me means this needs to be as good or better than those earlier films, otherwise it's just mindlessly unoriginal.  This is all we get on the heels of two quite fine westerns, The Revenant and The Hateful Eight?  Or maybe that's the point.  Sneak in your little poopy western while everyone still has his horse saddled from those other two.   Well, it didn't work.  My greatest fear is that this is going to set the sagebrush sagas back another 25 years. 

Before anyone gets excited about the title and any feminist angle worth jawing about, it should be stated that a man pulls down as much of the limelight as she does although the story is focused on her and she certainly ends it with a bang (or three or four).  When she first heads out, she goes to ask an ex-lover neighbor to join her.  Once he does, he's more the lead of the duo.  So why not call this Jane and Dan Got Their Guns?  Oh, maybe I'm just being too rough on Jane.

And if I am, I confess it may come a bit from knowing some of the back story.  In addition to their starring roles, Portman is also one of the many producers and Edgerton is one of the writers.  Ah-ha, I say.  And you remember those Star Wars flicks that aren't as highly-regarded as all the others?  Episodes I, II and III if you recall.  Well, Portman and McGregor were in all three and Edgerton was in II and III.  I imagine them all sitting around, as actors spend a great deal of time doing, and they build a great deal of camaraderie (which is not always the case) and someone says... hey Boo, sure would be fun to work together again, doncha think?  Maybe we could do something a lot less weighty.  Edgerton and his buddies start typing and voila!, here comes Jane.  Here comes Natalie, too, as producer, willing to look for some dough to realize the opportunity to work with her buds again.  Everyone's happy.

Well, not quite everyone.  There was some brouhaha with the original director and she left the project.  I recall reading something about a sudden change of cinematographers.  The ultimate director, O'Connor, was brought in with not a lot of preparatory time.  Never a good idea.  There was much press over Michael Fassbender taking the neighbor role and an equal amount when he bailed.  Then it was a similar story with Jude Law.  Ultimately, Edgerton jumped in which certainly makes one think he never originally intended to star in his own story.  It all ends up having the feel of a
vanity project.  Furthermore, my final nail, the film was completed in 2103 and not released until now.  That just doesn't happen unless you think you have a clunker.

Again, it's not devoid of interest (Portman looks hot in her western garb... and ooooh, that hat) but this film probably should have gone directly to video.  It will be in and out of theaters quicker than falling from a horse.

Next posting:
A good 40s film

No comments:

Post a Comment