Jane Got A Gun Blu-ray Review

Jane Got A Gun

Released between numerically-themed westerns The Hateful Eight and the upcoming Magnificent Seven remake, Gavin O’Connor’s Jane Got A Gun, released on Blu-Ray and DVD this month, should keep western fans tide over for a few months.

The posters advertising the film’s cinema circulation earlier this year had a distinctly anarchic, Tarantino-esque flavour. I placed the disc in the player and expected something akin to Django Unchained or indeed The Quick and the Dead. What I got was not exactly expected.

The story, set in 1871, starts with an isolated farmhouse where Jane (Natalie Portman) is looking after her young daughter, Katie. One day, Katie shouts from the garden that she can see her daddy in the distance. Jane rushes to the door to see a lone rider slowly advancing. Her smile drops when the rider falls off his horse. Something is wrong.

From this incident we get the impression that someone, not particularly nice and by the name of Bishop (Ewan McGregor), is hot on the family’s trail for some reason.

Jane speeds Katie away to safety and then seeks help from the only person she can think of, her ex-fiancé Dan (Joel Edgerton). Something tells us that the pair’s last meeting was less than harmonious and Dan takes some convincing to help defend Jane’s homestead against Bishop’s men.

As the story goes on, the backstories of all protagonists are expanded by flashback. I normally find this a hokey concept but here it works; our initial impressions of all characters are overturned to engrossing effect as the tale unfolds.

This flashback narrative also helps the whole film from ultimately feeling like the third act in a larger piece, which it initially does for the first twenty minutes or so, and punctuates the amount of time spent at Jane’s farmhouse which could get a little claustrophobic otherwise.

Edgerton, originally lined up for the role of Bishop, is solid in one of the leading roles and proves a more appropriate fit as the good guy.

McGregor, not seen much in recent years, reminds us how good he is, especially as a villain. It’s just a pity that his appearance amounts to little more than a cameo.

Which brings us to Jane.

Portman, who made her screen debut within the action genre with 1994’s Leon, does not deliver in the action stakes as much as the film’s advertising or even title suggests. However this criticism could more suitably be directed at the film as a whole, as opposed to Portman’s performance in isolation.

For a film which pitches itself as a shotgun-toting, rooting-tooting Western, there is a lot of talking and not much gunplay. And I mean a lot of talking.

None of this contradicts the fact that this is a well-made film; there is character development and that both Edgerton and Portman give good, heartfelt performances.

The main point is that, for anyone who is expecting a chaotic and raucous Western as advertised, it’s probably best to adjust your expectations.

In short, forget Django Unchained; this is more Jane Restrained.

Conor Brennan

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August 2016
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