A couple of cowboys at the center and the woman they fancy. Rifles, pistols and the bullets they shoot to eliminate threats. Bad guys and good guys. The flask and its healing liquor. Dusty trails and horses to navigate them.
Jane Got a Gunsurely carries the signs of the trusty western.
But this long-awaited release co-written by Brian Duffield and Anthony Tambakis and directed and co-written by Gavin O’Connor is more than the usual shoot-’em-up, ride-’em-hard flick.
First off, the also-carries-the-tags of action-drama revolves around the plight of Jane Pittman, a woman who rode out into the wilds of New Mexico carrying her baby daughter in the hopes of finding … Well, we see her sign up for the search of a better life in a series of flashbacks after her husband, Bill played by scruffy Noah Emmerich, rides home badly wounded by a gang of outlaws and she seeks the help of former fiancé Dan Frost, played by the strident Joel Edgerton, to fight off the bad men who are coming to finish this killing business they started.
It’s an odd but interesting plot setup, Dan reluctantly agreeing to help the woman of his past. Then again, this whole movie brings a peculiar history to the theater.
Original director Lynne Ramsay quit on the first day of shooting in 2013. That forced a delay that caused Michael Fassbender to give up the role of Frost. Edgarton got it, but only after he was first cast as Bishop Brothers gang leader Colin and Ewan McGregor was Dan, and then they switched.
Portman and Edgarton are as serious as the sun-baked terrain. And that chemistry works as the tale of reunion and redemption twists and turns through sadness and revenge, revelation and surprise.
The 1 hour, 28 minutes start out slow as the flashbacks take time to gain foothold.
But the small early matinée crowd at the Regal Cinemas theater in Syracuse mega shopping, dining and entertainment complex Destiny USA was rewarded for its patience. Jane got more than a gun. Resolve, too. Strength.
Do the up-close killings in the western genre immediately turn you off, or can you get through it to stick with the story? What’s your favorite western, and why? What’s your favorite Natalie Portman movie, and why?