Jane Got a Gun Blu-ray Review: Troubled Production, Decent Results

Natalie Portman more than holds her own as the star, but it's Joel Edgerton that really shines.
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Plagued by production difficulties, it's a wonder Jane Got a Gun ever saw the light of day.  In 2011, the film made the Black List, an annual listing of popular unproduced screenplays.  By May of 2012, Natalie Portman had signed on to star in the film alongside Michael Fassbender with Lynne Ramsey to direct.  By the next year, Fassbender was out due to scheduling conflicts and Jude Law was in.  Then Ramsey quit over artistic conflicts and out went her cinematographer with her.  And Jude Law.  Bradley Cooper came and went just as fast.  

Eventually they did make the film with Natalie Portman still playing the lead with Noah Emmerich as her husband, Joel Egerton as her ex-fiance, and Ewan McGregor as the villain.  Throughout 2015, various publicity photos and posters came out but still no movie.  The Weinstein company kept moving back the dates.  Finally in January of this year, the film hit theaters with little promotion behind it and now, with similar non-existent fan-are it has hit the home-video market.

Usually when this happens, the film is just terrible.  Multiple cast and production changes automatically signal troubled waters and when the distributing company continues pushing the date back, you can just about guarantee the film has come out wrong.  Surprisingly, Jane Got Her Gun is rather decent.  It's a long ways from a good film, but all things considered, it could have been much worse.  Faint praise, I know.

Portman plays Jane Hammond, a woman with a mysterious past who has made a life in the wild west with her husband, Bill Hammond (Emmerich).  He had an outlaw past and it's come to catch up with him.  The film begins with him coming home, riddled with bullets from the Bishop Boys gang, who Bill used to run with but pushed aside once he met Jane.  Knowing they will come for them sooner or later, Jane hires her ex-fiancee, Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton), to help fight.  He begrudgingly agrees but moreso to be close to Jane than for the cash reward.

What follows is your standard western stand-off film.  Our heroes prepare the homestead for the upcoming battle while the villains slowly get closer and closer.  This is rounded out by flashbacks that give us insight into who these characters are, why Jane left Dan, married Bill, and moved out west.  It's here that the film finds its heart.  Moving past all the genre cliches, the main characters all have interesting back stories that develop them more as living, breathing people rather than just stock characters.  It's not quite enough to make this a great film, but it at least gives it more depth than your standard old-style western.

Natalie Portman more than holds her own as the star, but it's Joel Edgerton that really shines.  I’d not seen him in a film before, that I recall, but I’ll be looking for him in the future.  He adds an emotional depth to his character.  He’s a fighter, having spend many months in the Civil War, but he’s also wounded that Jane left him for another.  But as he comes to understand why, we really feel his change of heart.

It wasn't until the credits rolled that I realize it was Ewan McGregor playing the villain.  I'd like to say its because he was so ensconsed in his role that he completely lost himself in it, but in truth it's because his character is so underdeveloped that he's barely noticeable.

As fitting for a film that had such trouble being made and then released, this Blu-ray release is as bare bones as it gets.  Just the film, with chapters, and that’s all.  It does look nice though.  The landscape is the sparsely inhabited west and so the colors remain muted and earth toned, but they look good.  The terrain as well as the people and houses are all well defined and detailed.  The blacks are sharp and the shadow detail is nice.  The audio is likewise well defined.  The soundtrack is clear and crisp and the gunfire rings out clearly from all over.

Despite a rather difficult production, Jane Got a Gun is an enjoyable, if rather forgettable little western.  With this release presenting absolutely no extras, you are better off giving it a rental or waiting for it to come out on cable.

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