Jane Got a Gun: Embattled western uneven, but rewarding

Jane Got a Gun, a new western starring Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton, never really stood a chance – at least not to get a fair share of the audiences cramming into theaters to see things like Ride Along 2, The Boy, The Forest and The Finest Hours.

Originally slated to come out almost a year and a half ago, this slow-burn thriller has sat on the shelves in Hollywood when its original distributor, Relativity Media, went belly up and lost their rights to the film. By July 2015, nearly a year after its initial expected release date of August 29, 2014, Jane Got a Gun fell into the hands of The Weinstein Company, who put the completed movie back on track for release.

It’s a film that could have starred Michael Fassbender or Jude Law or even Bradley Cooper, all of whom signed on for the film at one point or another before having to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.

Jane Got a Gun is a cursed film, to say the least.

Last year’s embattled and shelved western, Serena starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, was far less entertaining that the Portman and Edgerton led Jane Got a Gun, which certainly isn’t quite on the same level as the Coen brothers’ remake of True Grit or the Russell Crowe-led 3:10 to Yuma, but is the best traditional western in several years.

Portman has been out of the limelight for a while, with a handful of appearances in Marvel movies and second rate comedies littering her IMDB page since her Oscar winning turn as ballerina Nina Sayers in the psychological thriller Black Swan in 2010.

In Jane, Portman finds herself a compelling, yet underdeveloped character who has a singular need to protect her daughter, and by extension, her outlaw husband from a bandit gang led by an unrecognizable Ewen McGregor. Unfortunately, Portman shows little romantic interest in her bed-ridden, bullet-riddled husband, played by a game Noah Emmerich, but much of Jane Got a Gun glosses over the husband anyway.

Though Portman is a producer, star and the title character of what was supposed to be a female empowerment western, the real standout in Jane Got a Gun is the underappreciated Joel Edgerton as Dan, Jane’s former fiancé and gunslinger reluctant to come to her aid. A true character actor, Edgerton melts away, leaving viewers watching Dan struggle with Jane’s unclear choices and 

While John Bishop isn’t a ground-breaking villain, Ewen McGregor portrays the bandit gang leader so effortlessly than most audiences will fail to even recognize the Scottish star best known for his roles in Moulin Rouge and as a young Obi Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

Within Jane Got a Gun, director Gavin O’Connor does an admirable job of keeping things interesting visually despite the slow pace of the film, with several moments within Jane being downright gorgeous cinema.

Much better suited for at home audiences streaming on Netflix, Jane Got a Gun is a competent, yet misunderstood western done wrong at every turn in the production process that ends up being better than the sum of its parts, but can’t overcome all of the hurdles thrown at it. Portman’s the big name on the poster, but Edgerton’s the real show to see in this up-and-down film for hardcore western fans only.

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