Skip to main content

Not much sun in my story.

Jane Got a Gun
(2016)

(SPOILERS) Movies with the turbulent production history of Jane Got a Gun invariably end up flopping, as often as not because the studio involved, having lost all faith, dumps them. Director Lynne Ramsay dropped out over control issues, Michael Fassbender had already dropped out over Lynne Ramsay issues, Joel Edgerton flipped from bad guy to good guy, Jude Law, Bradley Cooper and finally Ewan McGregor were cast as the villain, and competent journeyman Gavin O’Connor took over the reins. Natalie Portman remained just where she was, though, as did the title, rather suggesting a revenger this is not, at least tonally.


When O’Connor came on board, Edgerton and Anthony Tambakis (the upcoming Bad Boys for Life) rewrote Brian Duffield’s screenplay. One wonders at its state in the first place, as there’s little here that is strikingly different or remarkable. If you’ve seen the likes of 3:10 to Yuma and Open Range (to name a couple of examples from just this century), you’ll recognise the long, slow build-up to the climactic shootout, and the bad guys wanting to get the good guys (or gals) is about as traditional as it comes. What Jane Got a Gun, obviously from the title, boasted was a female lead, although this doesn’t have the pop rewiring or sensibility of Bad Girls or The Quick and the Dead.


Portman’s Jane fails to becomes a shit-hot markswoman, employing Edgerton’s ex-Dan Frost to provided gunslinging skills when hubby Noah Emmerich falls foul of the dread Bishop gang (led by McGregor’s John Bishop) and lies mortally imperilled. What follows, during the planning for the inevitable, is a sometimes-ungainly flashback structure detailing how it was that Jane and Dan became estranged and how she finished up where she is. While scenes involving her encounter with the Bishops, and in particular a sequence where Emmerich bursts in on a brothel, are effective, those with Dan mostly aren’t, including a particular fetid hot air balloon sequence.


The main upside to the flashbacks is McGregor’s remarkably strong performance. With a Tom Selleck moustache and his grin firmly curtailed, along with a decent stab at an accent (an area where he generally falters), he makes for a convincingly steely rotter, and is ably assisted by Boyd Holbrook as his slightly m-m-mad younger brother.


En route to a well-staged climax are several altercations and classic (or clichéd, depending on your tastes) exchanges (“Pain you to take a life like that?” asks Jane; “Pain me a lot more to let him do it to me” replies Dan – if it was Clint in this exchange, it would have carried better), and O’Connor seems to have more affinity for the desert environs, even given his short-notice attachment to the project, than for earlier fully-fledged vehicles (the likes of Miracle, Pride and Glory and Warrior are competent but unremarkable movies).


Jane’s cathartic encounter with Bishop is a little on the pedestrian side, but you knew it was heading that way; the cop out regarding the presumed dead daughter is a really quite terrible cheat, though, suggestive of a slew of studio-mandated changes; the truncated running time too may be indicative of scenes ending up on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, Jane Got a Gun doesn’t deserve to have been roundly ignored the way it was. It’s a serviceable little western, well-performed all round and delivering where it counts.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

He’s probably paranoid, high-strung, doesn’t like daylight. You know, has a lot of crumbs in his beard, if he has a beard.

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) (SPOILERS) I’d like to report I had a blast with Godzilla vs. Kong . It’s lighter on its oversized, city-stomping feet than its slog of a MonsterVerse predecessor, Godzilla: King of the Monsters , and there are flashes of visual inspiration along with several engaging core ideas (which, to be fair, the series had already laid the seeds for). But this sequel still stumbles in its chief task: assembling an engaging, lively story that successfully integrates both tiny humans and towering titans.

You stink, my friend.

Mulan (2020) (SPOILERS) Let that be a lesson to Disney. It’s a fool’s errand to try and beat the Chinese at their own game, no matter how painstakingly respectful – or rather, pandering – you are. Indeed, Mulan ’s abysmal $40m box office take in the country – where it did get a proper release, so no plandemic excuses can be cited – feels like a direct rebuke; don’t try and tell us how to suck eggs. There’s an additional explanation too, of course. That Mulan sucks.

Roswell was a smokescreen, we've had a half a dozen better salvage operations.

The X-Files 1.24: The Erlenmeyer Flask The Erlenmeyer Flask makes for a fast-paced, tense and eventful ride, but does it make any sense? That less than mattered at the time, but revisiting the mythology arc (for probably the fourth or fifth time) reveals increasingly tenuous internal coherence as the various conspiracy elements begin to pile up and the situations become ever-more convoluted. This will become the Chris Carter’s signature: don’t examine the details too closely, go with the flow. Trust Chris implicitly.

It's Dark Age, by Jupiter!

The Dig (2021) (SPOILERS) An account of the greatest archaeological find Britain would know until Professor Horner opened the barrow at Devil’s End. And should you scoff at such “ fiction ”, that’s nothing on this adaptation of John Preston’s 2007 novel concerning the Sutton Hoo excavations of the late 1930s. The Dig , as is the onus of any compelling fictional account, takes liberties with the source material, but the erring from the straight and narrow in this case is less an issue than the shift in focus from characters and elements successfully established during the first hour.

By heaven, I’d thrash the life out of you… if I didn’t have to read the Nine O’Clock News.

The Green Man (1956) (SPOILERS) The Green movie from Launder and Gilliat starring Alastair Sim that isn’t Green for Danger. Which is to say, The Green Man can’t quite scale the heady heights of that decade-earlier murder mystery triumph, but neither is it any slouch. Sim is the antagonist this time – albeit a very affable, Sim-ish one – and his sometime protégée, a young George Cole, the hero. If the plot is entirely absurd, Robert Day’s movie wastes no time probing such insufficiencies, ensuring it is very funny, lively and beautifully performed.

UFO IN MOSSINGHAM?

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2020) (SPOILERS) One might reasonably suggest the recourse of the ailing or desperate franchise is to resort, seemingly out of nowhere, to space aliens. Even Police Academy didn’t go that far (to Moscow, yes, but not to space). Perhaps animators think kids have no skills of discernment and will swallow any old sugar-coated crap. Perhaps they don’t, and they will. Ice Age had been enjoying absurd success until Collision Course sent Scrat spinning into the cosmos and grosses tumbled. Shaun the Sheep has been around for a quarter of a century, but this is only his second movie outing and already he’s pulling an E.T. on us. Of course, this may all be part of the grand scheme, and Nick Park is simply doing his bit to familiarise the tots in time for Project Blue Beam.

Careful how much boat you’re eating.

Onward (2020) (SPOILERS) Pixar’s Bright , or thereabouts. The interesting thing – perhaps the only interesting thing – about Onward is that it’s almost indiscernible from a DreamWorks Animation effort, where once they cocked a snook at such cheap-seats fare, seeing themselves as better class of animation house altogether. Just about everything in Onward is shamelessly derivative, from the Harry Potter /fantasy genre cash-in to the use of the standard Pixar formula whereby any scenario remotely eccentric or exotic is buried beneath the banal signifiers of modern society: because anything you can imagine must be dragged down to tangible everyday reference points or kids won’t be able to assimilate it. And then there’s the choice of lead voices, in-Disney star-slaves Chris Pratt and Tom Holland.

Farewell, dear shithead, farewell.

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) (SPOILERS) I saw Highlander II: The Quickening at the cinema. Yes, I actually paid money to see one of the worst mainstream sequels ever on the big screen. I didn’t bother investigating the Director’s Cut until now, since the movie struck me as entirely unsalvageable. I was sufficiently disenchanted with all things Highlander that I skipped the TV series and slipshod sequels, eventually catching Christopher Lambert’s last appearance as Connor MacLeod in Highlander: End Game by accident rather than design. But Highlander II ’s on YouTube , and the quality is decent, so maybe the Director’s Cut improve matters and is worth a reappraisal? Not really. It’s still a fundamentally, mystifyingly botched retcon enabling the further adventures of MacLeod, just not quite as transparently shredded in the editing room.

A subterranean Loch Ness Monster?

Doctor Who The Silurians No, I’m not going to refer to The Silurians as Doctor Who and the Silurians . I’m going to refer to it as Doctor Who and the Eocenes . The Silurians plays a blinder. Because both this and Inferno know the secret of an extended – some might say overlong – story is to keep the plot moving, they barely drag at all and are consequently much fleeter of foot than many a four parter. Unlike Malcolm Hulke’s sequel The Sea Devils , The Silurians has more than enough plot and deals it out judiciously (the plague, when it comes, kicks the story up a gear at the precarious burn-out stage of a typical four-plus parter). What’s most notable, though, is how engaging those first four episodes are, building the story slowly but absorbingly and with persuasive confidence.

Suspicions of destiny. We all have them. A deep, wordless knowledge that our time has come.

Damien: Omen II (1978) (SPOILERS) There’s an undercurrent of unfulfilled potential with the Omen series, an opportunity to explore the machinations of the Antichrist and his minions largely ignored in favour of Final Destination deaths every twenty minutes or so. Of the exploration there is, however, the better part is found in Damien: Omen II , where we’re privy to the parallel efforts of a twelve or thirteen-year-old Damien at military school and those of Thorn Industries. The natural home of the diabolical is, after all, big business. Consequently, while this sequel is much less slick than the original, it is also more engaging dramatically.