Natalie Portman may be an Academy Award Winner, and she may be a household name, but she’s also fairly forgettable. Save for her exhilarating turn in Black Swan, her performances are never truly memorable, even in unforgettable films like Leon and V for Vendetta. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Natalie Portman movie and not said “Oh yeah, Natalie Portman”. Sadly, all of the same can be said for Jane Got a Gun, perhaps the most boring Western ever made.
Jane (Portman) is the wife to an outlaw who was injured by his old employer (Ewan McGregor), and calls upon a bitter ex-lover (Joel Edgerton) to help her in the fight against this man’s ruthless gang as they come knocking at Jane’s door.
It’d be unfair to say this is an outright bad film. At the very least, it’s competent with it’s camera work, but is that really a compliment? Saying that the film is competent and have that be the only good thing about it is like giving a participant medal at sports day; I’ve recognised you because I had to, despite the fact that you didn’t do very well. This may be the most horrifically boring film of the year so far; it’s so damn dull. It moves at the pace of a stagecoach with two wheels and not until the end does it ever become anywhere close to interesting. The film is choppily edited, leaving a lot to be desired in the way the story is told, and relies on shoddily interwoven flashbacks to deliver it’s exposition.
The dialogue is seriously contrived, and the characters themselves are bland, and their (what should be) complex dynamics feel completely weightless and pointless due to the poor writing. The film is rooted in nothing but cliches, using literally every Western trope ever. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing; Southpaw, for example, was essentially every boxing film ever rolled into one, yet it delivered an exhilarating and engaging experience because it was well made and well performed. This, however, is not. Not until the third act does it achieve any kind of excitement, and by then, it’s a small amount, far too little too late.
But the film’s biggest issue by far is Jane herself. For a film called Jane Got a Gun, Jane really does fuck all. She’s probably the film’s least interesting character; at not point is her story at all convincing or worthy of support. She’s as boring as they come, and Portman’s performance is uninspired. Joel Edgerton’s character is by far the most interesting, even if he too suffers from under development. This is incredibly disappointing; to build an entire film around one character, especially with this character being a woman in a traditionally masculine genre, only to have her be underwhelming as all hell is inexcusable. She barely does anything beyond having long, intimate conversations with people, and when it finally comes to the action, she’s nowhere near as involved as she should be. The film dives into it’s plot far too quickly, and idles along with Jane making no strides with her character whatsoever.
Also, I won’t spoil it for those still wishing to see it, but there’s a very emotional part of this film (Well, supposed to be) where Portman’s performance is 100% impossible to take seriously. I laughed hard. I don’t even care. Speaking of bad performance, Ewan McGregor is an absolute clown in this movie; he has no presence as a villain, at no point is he intimidating or scary, and he never feels dangerous. McGregor himself doesn’t seem to be enjoying it either. It constantly seems like he hates what he’s doing, and puts it no effort. Such a waste.
Jane Got a Gun is slow, underwhelming, it never reaches any emotional heights it aims for, it’s poorly edited, poorly written, poorly performed, and is completely boring. It just barely scrapes past being terrible for having decent camera work, but it’s not enough. Considering the last 10 years has given us Westerns like True Grit, The Assassination of Jesse James, and The Hateful Eight, this is a huge drop in quality for the genre…But hey, if you need a good nap, then this is definitely the film for you.
JANE GOT A GUN IS OUT ON DVD & BLU-RAY NOW!