Jane Got a Gun full movie review - Are Westerns Making A Comeback?
The official trailer for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN has been released. Last year saw THE HATEFUL EIGHT nominated for several awards. THE REVENANT won for best picture at the Academy Awards.
Are we seeing a resurgence in the classic genre known as westerns? Perhaps we are. And this week another released this year makes its way to DVD, JANE GOT A GUN.
Said to be loosely inspired by the 1971 film HANNIE CAULDER (and if it is trust me lose is the main term to consider here) the movie tells the story of Jane Hammond, a woman on the old frontier whose husband Bill (Noah Emmerich) returns home wounded and in need of help, letting her know that John Bishop (Ewan McGregor) and his gang are on their way. Unable to so much as stand to help or to leave, Jane takes their daughter to a nearby friend and seeks out assistance from Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton).
As the movie unfolds we learn the past history of these main characters. Jane was engaged to Dan before he left to join the Civil War. When he never returned she headed west. Bill came to her rescue there and in the process garnered the ire of Bishop. The eventual confrontation between all parties involved is inevitable and makes for the majority of the last third of the movie. And before anyone accuses me of revealing too much let me say that all of this comes out in the trailer.
Like most great westerns the plot here is pretty matter of fact and doesn't contain a lot of ins and outs like most movies being made. It's a simple story with facets weaved into it that fill out the 98 minutes seen on screen. For me that's not a negative aspect but a plus. Far too often movies these days seem determined to fill a full 2 hours with unnecessary items that muddle the plot or add nothing to the story but fulfill the director's need to make as long a movie as possible. The end result is almost always a long movie that drags often. By using a tired and true formula for a western the film makers here have made something both interesting and entertaining.
One thing to note is that the movie seems like it's offering a strong female lead in the title role. The trailer for the movie even makes it seem that way. In fact rather than that we're presented with co-leads in our story, Jane and Dan. Some will take issue with that. Their problem will come from a 21st century perspective. Women have more rights today than in the past and that's rightfully so. But back in the old west that wasn't the case. And while Jane presents a strong female lead that she would be able to accomplish what happens in this film on her own wouldn't have been possible.
Not only that, the love triangle presented between the characters of Jane, Dan and Bill that is touched on at first and then slowly revealed via flashbacks makes for an interesting story. It adds the depth needed to flesh out an entire film while still never overplaying that and making the movie far too long. It also makes you care more deeply for each person involved in the story and hate the character of Bishop more than you did at the beginning of the film. This format causes the movie to move along at a slower pace than expected in a western but I never felt it hindered anything.
The movie didn't do that well at the box office and was plagued by difficulties getting made. The original male leads intended for the movie backed out and were replaced. The same held true for the original director. Ratings have been unkind to the movie as well. Not knowing that going in and looking into it as I began to write this I reflected back on the movie itself.
It's good. It's not good as in being as memorable as say STAGECOACH good but it is a good movie. The story holds your interest from start to finish. The black hats and white hats are pretty much easy to determine which is refreshing in a world where good guys are often as terrible as those they pursue these days. The acting by all involved is completely believable and that says something. For me a strong performance is one where I lose sight of the fact I'm watching someone acting and see just the character instead. That's in abundance here. And knowing now that director Gavin O'Connor was brought in after the project began shows he deserves a tip of the hat.
Fans of the western genre will be happy to see it making a comeback. I for one have wondered why it hasn't happened already. Maybe audiences are too jaded and too invested in superhero films these days (which I love as well). There should always be room for different genres. Here's hoping movies like this continue to be made. For an entertaining evening this is one western worth watching.