“Jane Got a Gun,” but she doesn’t really use it. Natalie Portman’s (“Black Swan”) latest film has so much potential to be a badass reversal of traditional Western gender roles, but it loses itself somewhere along the way.
Portman plays the titular character seeking revenge against the band of outlaws known as the Bishop Boys, who want her and her husband Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich, “Pride and Glory”) dead. When they send Hammond home alive but full of bullets, she calls on the help of her ex-fiancé Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton, “Black Mass”) to be her “gunslinger.” The only catch is that Hammond thinks Dan is dead.
With a tangled plot of love triangles, betrayal and dead characters who come back to life, “Jane Got a Gun” often feels like a Nicholas Sparks Western. Dan and Jane’s love story is told through golden-hued flashbacks in which the pair laugh and run through various fields.
Jane starts out with peak bad bitch potential. She tells her husband to “watch his language” as she pulls bullets out of his back, then turns around and buys an obscene amount of ammo to get her revenge. Unfortunately, it’s not long until Jane finds herself in need of saving. Dan rescues her from an alley attacker early on, and continues to save her for the duration of the film. It’s so disappointing because “Jane Got a Gun” ends up being more about the men around her than Jane herself.
“Jane Got a Gun” wants to be over just as badly as the audience wants it to be. The plot is rushed, only taking its time to flesh out dramatic flashbacks. Most of the film is spent on Jane’s property while she and Dan (but mostly Dan) fortify the house and wait for the impending attack. The few scenes of action are rushed and therefore insufficient to give “Jane Got a Gun” the excitement it so desperately needs. The movie sacrifices drama for time efficiency and loses in a major way.
“Jane” had a rough time making it to theaters, and perhaps that’s why it feels tired before it even begins. After losing the original director and a chunk of the male cast, Gavin O’Connor (“Warrior”) came in, Edgerton overhauled the script and the movie was “saved.” However, it still feels at times like two movies stitched together. Characters — especially villain John Bishop (Ewan McGregor, “Mortdecai”) — are left painfully underdeveloped. Perhaps the result of too many hands on deck, “Jane Got a Gun” seems torn between wanting to be a vengeful action flick or a movie about the emotional toll of the West. It can’t commit fully to either one, and fails to find the proper blend of the two.
Unfortunately for “Jane Got a Gun,” it seems all the action and excitement was had off screen.