Jane’s story bit of a calamity

Rutherglen Reformer - - The Ticket -

Few films ar­rive in cin­e­mas on the back of the moun­tain of pro­duc­tion is­sues that cursed this taut western.

Brian Duffield’s (In­sur­gent) orig­i­nal story fea­tured on the 2011 Black List – an an­nual run­down of the most pop­u­lar un­pro­duced screen­plays – and when the movie was fi­nally given the green light, first-choice di­rec­tor Lynne Ram­say rode off into the sun­set for rea­sons that still re­main un­clear.

Michael Fass­ben­der, Jude Law and Bradley Cooper all signed on for roles only later to de­part and An­thony Tam­bakis and new star Joel Edger­ton were hired to re­write Duffield’s script.

The one con­stant to re­main on board this bumpy roller­coaster ride through­out was orig­i­nal lead Natalie Port­man, who plays the tit­u­lar heroine try­ing to pro­tect her out­law hus­band Bill (Noah Em­merich) from a gang out to kill him.

So af­ter all that woe, is Jane Got a Gun worth the wait? Per­haps in­evitably the sim­ple an­swer is no. New Yorker Gavin O’Con­nor (War­rior, Pride and Glory) gives it his best shot be­hind the cam­era, yet you can’t help but won­der what Glaswe­gian Ram­say (Rat­catcher, We Need to Talk about Kevin) would’ve done with the reins.

O’Con­nor knows his west­erns, though, and he and cin­e­matog­ra­pher Mandy Walker (Aus­tralia) do a fine job of film­ing gor­geous land­scapes adorned with sun­sets, sand and au­tum­nal colours.

Port­man gives a strong turn too as a steely wife out to do all she can to save her put-upon other half; it’s just a pity the story doesn’t have much faith in its lead­ing lady.

While Jane does in­deed get her gun, her first in­stinct is to run off to ex-lover Dan Frost (Edger­ton) for help rather than take the type of in­di­vid­ual stand she seems per­fectly ca­pa­ble of.

It doesn’t help ei­ther than de­spite fine in­di­vid­ual per­for­mances, Port­man and Edger­ton don’t gel very well to­gether and rather than de­liv­er­ing elec­tric­ity, their limp chem­istry is more like rub­bing two sticks to­gether in an un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to cre­ate fire.

The pac­ing drags – es­pe­cially dur­ing the mid­dle third – amid one too many flash­backs and camp­fire chats when you’re dy­ing to see a bit of gun­play and peril.

O’Con­nor keeps the ac­tion lean rather than lively and it’s a real shame as when the fire­works even­tu­ally ar­rive, they make for an en­gag­ing, tense cli­mac­tic shoot-out.

Un­even and un­event­ful for the most part, then, but the film’s true Achilles heel is the em­bar­rass­ing dis­play by Scot Ewan McGre­gor.

Sport­ing a hideous black dye job and han­dle­bar mous­tache, he hams it up so much as the vil­lain­ous John Bishop, it’s as if he’s been dropped in from a Blaz­ing Sad­dles­like western spoof.

For Jane Got a Gun to even make it to the big screen is a vic­tory in it­self, es­pe­cially for the loyal Port­man.

But this slug­gish slog through the Old West will for­ever pale in com­par­i­son to the tale of its prob­lem­atic pro­duc­tion jour­ney.

Bul­let time Natalie Port­man’s heroine de­fends her fam­ily

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