Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Jane Got a Gun

Jane Got a Gun (2016)
Dir.Gavin O'Connor
Starring: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Noah Emmerich, Rodrigo Santoro, Boyd Holbrook, Ewan McGregor

Jane (Portman) recruits her estranged ex lover Dan (Edgerton) to protect her injured husband (Emmerich) from a outlaw (McGregor).

It's unfortunate that what stands out the most about this film is its troubled production history. The problems first arose when Michael Fassbender, the original actor cast as Dan, had to drop out due to commitments to the X-Men franchise. Joel Edgerton had been cast as the villain Bishop, but he moved to the role of Dan and Jude Law was cast as Bishop. Then on the first day of filming director Lynne Ramsey quit due to some disagreements between her and the producers, which lead to another delay, and for Jude Law to leave the project, since he only signed on to work with Ramsey. Gavin O'Connor was brought on to direct, and he and Edgerton (along with Anthony Tambakis) reworked the script. This also lead to a change in more crew behind the scenes as well.

Whenever a production has a huge shake up like this one did, it's kind of a bad situation for the director that gets brought on. If the movie ends up being bad, you'll take the blame, but if it's good the question is always "how much of it is due to the original people that were in charge?" But the movie had a year of preproduction work that was done between the aborted first day of filming and the hiring of O'Connor and the beginning of filming of the completed film. It's not like the situation was that Ramsey left the production and O'Connor immediately walked on and picked up the reins. He had a year to make the film his own, especially since he had time to work on the script with the star and writer of his previous film, Warrior.

But it is important to try ans forget about all that when watching the film and judge it on it's own merits. As it is, Jane Got a Gun is a fairly simple story. Jane's husband is wounded by a gang lead by Ewan McGregor's Bishop, and she recuits her ex lover Dan (Edgerton) to fend off the oncoming assault by Bishop's gang. The film is laced with flashbacks that give depth and backstory to the characters, which helps the film from feeling claustrophobic due to the nature of the bulk of the story being three people in a farmhouse preparing for a fight.

The best thing about the film is that it feels more like it is just trying to be a traditional western, rather than trying to be a deconstruction. It sets out to tell a simple story, and it does it well. And as opposed to The Last Rites of Ransom Pride, it contains good usage of flashbacks in a way that drives the narrative, as opposed to using them to pad out the runtime.

A big reason why the film works is Natalie Portman. It's no surprise that she's able to carry the film, and she's by far the best thing about the film. Not that Edgerton is bad or anything. He gets the more traditional flawed gunslinger role, and Ewan McGregor gets the more fun villian role, where the only real complaint that I had was that he wasnt in the film enough. (Which isn't a problem, since sometimes it's better to leave the audience wanting more rather than bloat the film with unnecessary scenes.) But it's a competently made movie, that looks good and isn't boring. And it doesn't overstay its welcome.

Weird side note, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, and Joel Edgerton all acted together in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. It doesn't have any bearing on this film, it was just a random observation.

Overall I liked it. It's not the most amazing thing ever, but it's a good and worth checking out.

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