Monday, 25 April 2016

Review: Jane Got A Gun

Jane Got A Gun
Cert: 15 / 98 mins / Dir. Gavin O'Connor / Trailer

If the only thing you have to do to get a film optioned these days is name it loosely after an Aerosmith song, then I'm clearly in the wrong job. Hopefully my screenplay for biscuit-factory based zombie flick, Eat The Rich Tea!, should be hitting cinemas this time next year…

Meanwhile, Gavin O'Connor brings us Jane Got A Gun, a sand-worn tale of revenge, regret and survival. When Jane's ex-outlaw husband Bill arrives home carrying bullets inside his body as well as on his belt, it becomes apparent that his old boss, Bishop, has a score to settle. With Bill in no shape to defend either himself nor his family, Jane has to marshal her resources for a last stand. And for this she'll need the assistance of the man she used to be with before her life fell apart for the first time. This will get messy...

The actual framework of the story is pretty timeless, and I can't help get the feeling that it was originally written for a modern setting (probably with Russian/Eastern-European mafia as the film's bad guys) and then retrofitted as a Western. It's this genre-blurring aspect that I enjoyed the most*1, although given my track record with with modern Westerns, it's probably for the best that I found something else in there. At least Jane Got A Gun stands out more this way.

We get off to a fairly low-key start, the lack of any grand title-sequence foreshadowing how the story is going to be told. Additionally, the main narrative is punctuated by two sets of (albeit shared) flashbacks, which give us the characters' back-story, but in a non-linear order. This helps the dramatic unfurling of the tale, but not the rhythm of its telling. This movie has all the visual hallmarks we've come to expect from the genre, with the notable exception of broad, sweeping vistas of barren scrubland. The environment is there, and the photography is great nonetheless, but the landscape here is painted with the same brush as the drama; intimate and understated.

Natalie Portman is very good as the eponymous Jane in both the film's quieter and louder moments, but struggles to find the balance for anything in between. I like Portman as a performer, but I don't think she's right for the leading role, here. Joel Edgerton, on the other hand, is reliably solid as Dan, the representation of Jane's former life. And finally, although he has far less to do on a thespic-level, Ewan McGregor's clearly enjoying himself as the black-hatted, moustache-twirling villain of the piece. Together, they make for a fascinating central trio, and that's what's really important.

That said, for all the good and interesting things the film does, Jane Got A Gun loses a point for the dialogue frequently being needlessly indistinct in the sound-mix. Even in the quiet scenes. Edgerton and McGregor might get away with blaming the facial hair for the mumbling, but Portman's go no excuse…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Generally, most other modern Westerns.
But as I tend to have problems with those, let's go for The Salvation, in particular

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Only if it's nearby.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Just about, although it struggles more than it should.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't. Shameful.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Quite remarkably, Jane Got A Gun sees the on-screen reunion of Ewan 'Kenobi' McGregor, Natalie 'Amidala' Portman and Joel 'Lars' Edgerton, all from Attack of the Clones.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Okay, I enjoyed the head-shots the most. Then the genre-blurring.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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