Jane Got a Gun (2016)

 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

 

Westerns are a lost art. Most of them lose millions at the box office, yet every so often, studios decide to try again. Jane Got a Gun is a tragedy of a western, meaning there's a good story buried under poor direction.

 

Jane (Natalie Portman) has a problem. Her husband rides home one day riddled with bullets. He manages to grunt out the name of the gang that is coming for him, before he passes out. She could take their daughter and ride for the hills, leaving him to die (he encourages it) but that's not how Jane does things. No, she's going to stick around and fight. For that, she needs a real gunslinger -- and goes to Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton). There's bad blood between them, but he can't stand by and let her die, even if he does hate her husband.

 

Slowly, the two of them prepare for battle, rigging traps and explosives around the house, and dealing with their troubled past through a series of emotional conflicts... while waiting for the Bishop gang, headed by a ruthless liar (Ewan McGregor) to come kill them.

 

This film has many hallmarks of a great western; a feisty heroine with a difficult, traumatic, and layered past, her angry ex-boyfriend, and a story that reveals itself layer by layer. Jane shows tremendous courage and loyalty, when it might be easier for her to turn tail and run -- but she's not about to abandon the man who saved her from a fate worse than death just to save her own skin. She has a touching scene with her daughter, in which she reminds her that they are always connected, even though they may be miles apart ("You came from my body; you are part of me, and I will always feel you"). The stakes are high, the showdown is massive, and the payoff is good (literally)...

 

And that's why it's a bit of a tragedy. You see, the story drags so much it feels much longer than it actually is. It needed tighter pacing, because the most compelling things about the film (her back story, the truth about her current relationship, the dynamics of the gang and their true intentions) get lost under a slow narrative. I reached the end wishing it had been better, since it did stir me in interesting ways, but it's never a good thing to check your watch during a film.

     
Sexual Content:
Men kidnap women to force them to work in brothels; we see Jane just after she has been raped (nothing shown, but she pulls her skirt down). She has a child out of wedlock. We see a naked man (from behind) playing the piano. Scantily clad prostitutes. A man tries to rape Jane (he throws her to the ground and climbs on top of her).
 
Language:
Three f-words. GD said a half dozen times. Other language, including c--ks---er.
 
Violence:
Gunshots rip through people and buildings, sometimes hitting villains in the head; others are set on fire or die in explosions. Jane digs slugs out of her husband's back (bloody). The villain tortures a man with a wire garrote, then chokes him to death (off screen).

 
Other:
Alcohol throughout.


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