A woman asks her ex-lover for help in order to save her outlaw husband from a gang out to kill him.
“Jane Got a Gun” has been mired in controversy since its inception. Over the course of several years, many different A-list actors, including Michael Fassbender, Bradley Cooper, and Jude Law, were attached to the project in some capacity, only to then leave. Some vacated the project because of scheduling conflicts with other films (Michael Fassbender with “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and Bradley Cooper with “American Hustle”), others, Jude Law, left because they had wanted to work with the movie’s original director, Lynne Ramsay, who reportedly left on the first day of production. In the end though, I think the cast that wound up in the finished film, were the best choices for their respective roles.
Jane (Natalie Portman) and her fiancé Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton) have big plans for their future together but when Dan is called to military service, he is at war for many years. Having not heard from him for some time and presuming he died in battle, Jane tries to move on with her life. Wanting to head out west to begin anew, Jane and some of her girlfriends come across the violent Bishop Boys gang, led by their charismatic leader John Bishop (Ewan McGregor), who offers them protection to their intended destination. Little do the women realize the men have ulterior motives. When Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich), a stagecoach driver, discovers what the men are doing to the women, he kills four of them and rescues Jane. They escape and begin a new life together with a beautiful young daughter but when Bill comes home one day, riddled with bullets, he informs Jane that the Bishop gang will soon follow.
With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, she discovers that her ex-fiancé Dan, the only person she had ever trusted, is alive and well, and heads out to see him. Initially, he is furious with Jane, that she apparently gave up on him and their relationship and while he quickly turns down her plea for help, he reconsiders and agrees to assist her. As her house is situated in a valley with only one way in and out, the duo formulate a plan that will help protect her and her family and rid the world, once and for all, of the Bishop Boys gang.
Westerns have always provided the ideal setting for revenge stories. From “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” “Unforgiven,” and everything in between, the wild west was called so because of the copious amounts of retaliatory stories and tales that emerged from that time. “Jane Got a Gun” is a simple yet powerful tale of innocence, betrayal and ultimately, revenge. Unlike other westerns, such as “Jonah Hex,” “Bad Girls,” and “Bandidas,” where the likes of Megan Fox, Drew Barrymore, Madeline Stowe, and Salma Hayek, were given the opportunity to brandish a gun and seek retribution for the wrongs committed against them, instead of playing the damsel in distress, Natalie Portman towers above them all. She has no desire to kill but when her husband is shot and he inadvertently leads the bad guys directly to their doorstep, she will not run, she will pick up a gun and use it to protect her family. She does not go looking for vengeance, instead, she lets it come to her and will do whatever it takes, even if it means dying in the process.
Both Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton shine as the embittered ex-couple who must join forces in order to save her family. Ewan McGregor is engrossing, appearing at first to be friendly and caring but quickly becoming malignant and loathsome. This is a “Star Wars” reunion of sorts, with both Portman, Edgerton, and McGregor all appearing for the first time together in a film since “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” in 2005. Director Gavin O’Connor has crafted an old-fashioned western, brimming with wild west iconography and a believable and authentic female lead that never once feels like she was given a gun just for the sake of being sexy. Jane is a mother, a wife, and a homeowner, and she simply will not evade her responsibilities, just because she is a woman. Screenwriters Brian Duffield, Anthony Tambakis, and Joel Edgerton create a wonderful story arc by starting out and introducing the many different characters and letting you think you know all about them, only to do a complete 180 later on in the story, taking you back in time to show what really happened. Jane never gave up on Dan, he never gave up on her but through a series of unfortunate events, situations transpired and their way of life changed.
“Jane Got a Gun” is filled with excellent performances and along with Kiefer and Donald Sutherland’s most-recent western “Forsaken,” Kurt Russell’s “Bone Tomahawk” and “The Hateful Eight,” and the upcoming remake of “The Magnificent Seven,” with Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, it would appear that the genre is indeed not dead, and if these films are anything to go by, I cannot wait to see what comes next.
Available On Blu-ray, DVD & On Demand April 26th
Check out Irish Film Critic for more exciting news, reviews, and giveaways.