THE long delays, troubled production and switching up of Jane Got a Gun’s cast and crew – including losing original Scottish director Lynne Ramsay and star Jude Law – might in some way suggest a film that’s an essential watch in order to see just what all the fuss was about.
Unfortunately, it’s a case of a big hoopla being made over nothing as the end result of this unusually female-led Western is something altogether underwhelming and unsatisfying.
We follow the titular Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman), a spirited woman who enlists the help of ex-lover Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton) to help defend her family and home from dangerous gang leader John Bishop (Ewan McGregor) who is gunning after her husband (Noah Emmerich).
So far, so good old-fashioned Wild West set-up. Sadly, that’s where the effectiveness pretty much halts as what follows is a film that feels as choppy and repetitive as it does stilted and uninspired, obsessed as it is with cod philosophy and trite sentimentality.
Director Gavin O’Connor (Warrior) relies far too heavily on clunky flashbacks to illuminate character motivations and emotional resonance. But they feel more like a lackadaisical way to fill time that stalls any built-up momentum towards the inevitable big showdown.
Much of the cast are under or misused, with the likes of Edgerton and McGregor merely coasting on their natural charisma. But Portman is undoubtedly the saving grace of the film, elevating a somewhat thinly-written lead character to a watchable and even empathetic level.
There’s an overwhelming and rather irritating sense of self-importance at work in Jane Got a Gun, as if the filmmakers think that it’s saying something revolutionary about feminism in a time period and genre that’s largely male-dominated. But the depth or finesse just isn’t there in the script, resulting in a messy and ineffective Western that may be pleasant to look at in a picture postcard sort of way but ultimately wastes a lot of good talent.