This was the supposedly feminist-revisionist Western from which Lynne Ramsay walked away on the eve of the shoot.
Such a headline-making production issue inevitably casts a high noon shadow over the film (Lynne marched straight off the set and onto the Cannes Jury that year, 2013.) which finally got a release, still with its producer Natalie Portman in the lead role, and with Ewan McGregor and Joel Edgerton saddling up alongside her.
It’s certainly hard to see what all the fuss was about – certainly, if Ramsay had made it, the film would have looked and felt totally different and surely would have been several notches more interesting.
For, as it is, this is a pedestrian drama in which a woman, Jane Hammond (Portman), defends her homestead from a band of moustachioed, snaggle-toothed outlaws lead by McGregor’s John Bishop, after her husband (Noah Emmerich) returns home riddled with bullets.
Jane enlists the help of Edgerton’s loner Dan Frost and it emerges, via a few flashbacks, that this pair have a romantic history that now resurfaces as the outlaws close in.
As for the supposed feminism, that looks to have got shot to pieces, too. Jane is reliant on men and their guns for her survival and although she’s obviously got some steel of her own and is devoted to her daughter, there appears very little consistency in Portman’s character. She can’t even decide what hat to wear.
I’m sure the original idea was to show how tough frontier life was for a woman, how her only economic options were working in a whorehouse or risked getting raped by outlaws or “injuns” or some such. But what a dull performance it is from Portman, too. Let’s be honest, she hasn’t been good in anything since Leon. Even in Black Swan she was easily second fiddle to Mila Kunis.
Here, she’s too happy to look pretty under her black hat at inappropriate moments and she can’t seem to get dirty enough when the rough stuff and ordeals start. It’s a bit of acting flatter than the plains.
The film, now directed by Gavin O’Connor, lacks any spark of humour or any really distinguishing features – even the extended gun battle has a confusion about it, because the geography of the ranch is never properly explained.
Jane Got A Gun? Well, good for her. She won’t be getting an Oscar.