Other than the misleading title which suggests some sort of revisionist feminist twist on the old west milieu which never comes to pass, I’m not so sure what the problem was with Jane Got A Gun. This is that supposedly “bad” outlaw revenger that came and went this past winter, getting beat up by “critics” who were more interested in rehashing the lengthy behind the scenes turmoil that the project endured and the ensuing bankruptcy of distributor Relativity Media, rather than the solidly entertaining final product. There’s nothing game-changing about Jane Got A Gun; it’s a line drive up the middle with the hitter taking second base standing up. Sometimes a film doesn’t need to hit a grand-slam; sometimes it’s just fine to be well made and competently written and traditional. And to be honest, I’ll take ANY movie I can get that’s set in gunslinger territory. Gavin O’Connor’s sensible direction never went above and beyond the call of duty, and he was able to whip up some evocative shots with his skilled cinematographer Mandy Walker (Australia, Shattered Glass), while the tight editing by Alan Cody never wasted a moment. Everyone in the cast gave a committed and believable performance, with producer-star Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton sharing some fine chemistry. Ewan McGregor made for a vicious baddie, and Noah Emmerich, Rodrigo Santoro, and Boyd Holbrook all offered up good support. The Blacklist-approved script, originally written by Brian Duffield with input from Anthony Tambakis and Edgerton, moves in a straightforward manner, totally unfussy and to the point, with terse dialogue and lots of opportunities for violent confrontation. The plot isn’t anything you haven’t seen before — a woman enlists the help of her bad-ass former lover to protect her home as a band of outlaws are coming for her and her husband, who has already taken a bullet in the gut.
This is yet another bad-luck item for director O’Connor, a classical director with a slew of underrated credits on his resume, including the Olympic hockey drama Miracle (which made some decent coin), the rough-house cop film Pride & Glory with Ed Norton and Colin Farrell (and a script co-written by Joe Carnahan), and the absolutely sensational MMA drama Warrior, which features Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, and Edgerton in a trio of fabulous, method-y performances. O’Connor is attracted to quality material, he’s a strong visual storyteller, and he lands big stars in all of his projects; it would be nice if one of them would strike box office gold. This fall’s upcoming hit-man thriller The Accountant, with Ben Affleck, looks to be a return to the glossy, 90’s-styled, star vehicle movie for adults, and I’m hoping it delivers on the promise of its exciting trailer. But what a shame about the entire situation that Jane Got A Gun faced; it was never given a chance to succeed, and when the Weinstein company released it this past January, it bombed on a spectacular level, grossing $865,572 on its opening weekend from roughly 1,210 theaters. It would limp to a $3 million domestic total, making it the worst wide release opening in the history of The Weinstein Company. Currently streaming on Netflix, this is a movie that will satisfy almost anyone who gives it a chance, and if you’re a big fan of westerns like I am, this will definitely serve up a nice slice of undemanding yet enjoyable genre entertainment.