Susan Granger’s review of “Jane Got a Gun” (The Weinstein Company)
Unfortunately, the backstory on this revisionist Western is more interesting than what unfolds on-screen, as Natalie Portman plays Jane Hammond, a pistol-packin’ frontierswoman in the New Mexico Territory.
It begins in 1871, when Jane’s husband, Bill (Noah Emmerich), comes home, having been shot several times by the Bishop Boys, led by villainous John (Ewan McGregor), who – Bill says – are “comin’” to wreak revenge.
After depositing their daughter with a neighbor, Jane enlists help from her brooding ex-fiancé, gunslinger Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton), who, apparently, was away too long, fighting in the Civil War but now, conveniently, dwells nearby. Together, they fortify the Hammond homestead, preparing for the Bishops’ siege.
Muddled flashbacks reveal that, seven years earlier, Jane left Huntsville, Missouri, toting her young daughter, joined a wagon train, only to be kidnapped and forced into prostitution – until Bill Hammond saved her.
Episodically scripted by Brian Duffield, Anthony Tambakis and Joel Edgerton, it’s heavy-handedly directed by Gavin O’Connor at a snail’s pace.
So what went wrong? Almost everything.
On the first day of production in March, 2013, Scottish director Lynne Ramsay (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”) abruptly quit, followed by her two leading men, Michael Fassbender and Jude Law, along with cinematographer Darius Khondji.
Director Gavin O’Connor (“Tumbleweeds,” “Warrior”) and cinematographer Many Walker (“Truth”) were recruited, along with Bradley Cooper, who then left to make “American Hustle.” Lawsuits followed – and were subsequently settled.
Despite the steadfast star power of Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”) and Joel Edgerton’s willingness to exchange the juicy role of John Bishop for the part of Dan Frost, the original financing unraveled, only to be rescued by a long list of new producers (too many to count!) who have allowed the project to quietly ride off into the sunset.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Jane Got a Gun” is a female-centric 5 – that one wishes were better.