Jane Got a Gun
After several years of casting woes, scheduling conflicts, crew replacements, financial hardship and distribution tango, heroine-based western Jane Got a Gun, starring Natalie Portman in the eponymous role, finally hits UK theatres on 22nd April.
In the largely untamed, desolate corners of New Mexico in the years following the American Civil War, Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich) barely manages to get home, slumped over his horse and marred by bullets, to his unwitting wife, Jane (Natalie Portman). Upon learning that the Bishop gang (who have been on the couple’s trail for years, led by the notorious John Bishop – Ewan McGregor) will soon be closing in on their remote ranch, Jane takes her daughter to leave in the care of a trusted friend while she goes to enlist the help of Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton), with whom she once shared a deeply romantic past. Facing the threat to her life as well as her family’s, Jane must reconcile her tormented past in order to overcome the adversity in her present.
Despite an attempt to work with the uncommon treatment of a Western (that is, the action and plot driven by a female protagonist), the stakes are not very high, and the film lacks the very basic components that define the genre and make it fun to watch: excitement, adventure and duress. The final showdown is hardly thrilling and would be described as anti-climactic, had there actually been any rising action detailed in the film, and McGregor’s uncommitted Bishop is vanquished all too easily. Based on the poorly conceived title, one would expect Jane to take on more harrowing deeds, however, her conduct can be summarily described as appealing to a former lover for protection after her husband becomes indisposed, which really does nothing to challenge gender roles at all, despite what the trailer would suggest.
Portman carries the gravity of her character’s situation with substance, while somehow maintaining glamour and manicured nails, as a woman who has been subjected to a number of tragedies stemming from her gender-based vulnerability in addition to the travails of life in the Old West. The part demonstrates that Portman’s choice of roles is ageing gracefully alongside the actress. Edgerton’s dejected Frost is most successful in subverting entrenched expectations by revealing a certain compassion when he finally learns Jane’s complete story.
With beautiful, sweeping shots of the American Southwest, it’s a shame that the landscape doesn’t play more of a pivotal role in the film as it does in classic Westerns. Many aspects of the story are too convenient, and anything that is unaccounted for is simply attributed to the war. Despite the rather one-dimensional plot, this simplified tale of wily outlaws of the bygone West is enjoyable enough.
Jane Got a Gun is released nationwide on 22nd April 2016.
Watch the trailer for Jane Got a Gun here: