When I first became aware of this movie, I didn’t pay much attention to it. I thought the title suggested something highly political, pretty much a feminist version of Will Munny being put to screen. The fact that it didn’t seem to be getting too many positive reviews didn’t help either. But I found something different to the misconception I had on the Blu-Ray review copy that arrived this week. After some Googling I found that the movie was kind of being torn apart.
Apparently some wanted a female Rambo in the old west and were pissed that they didn’t get just that. This movie is really sexist, says one. No, it’s unbelievably sexist, says another. Of course, the movie isn’t, but I’ll talk about that later.
The movie tells the story of a naive woman and mother (Natalie Portman) who seeks help and protection for a trip from the outlaw John Bishop (Ewan McGregor) and his band of criminals. Bishop, a quick-mouthed snake and predator, agrees, but with different intentions in mind – gang rape and forced prostitution being part of it. One of his men, Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich) falls for the woman and flees with her with McGregor in pursuit. Hammond is injured and has bought both some time at a secluded ranch and with McGregor’s mob being only a few days away, Portman must seek help.
From there she approaches her ex lover, war veteran Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton). Frost likes an (hourly) drink and cannot stand the sight of Portman. He is reluctant at first, but the prospect of $5,000 a head for killing McGregor’s crew entices him.
For those who were expecting a politically charged movie in one direction (me) and those who were crying about it going in the other direction with sexism, the truth is that it’s neither. It’s simply another western with a woman seeking help from a man hardened in the hell of war. Since McGregor’s gang is 10+ strong, a man would also have to seek help and even then, one war veteran is still poor odds. Really, what were some people expecting? Portman to wipe out the whole posse in a gun-totin’ rage? The movie kind of reminds me on Fury Road in that sense, I seen nothing out of the ordinary in a man agreeing to protect a woman. Besides, Portman’s character is tough too.
Either way you cut it though, the narrative flow of this film bugged me. The first half or so is jumbled up with flashbacks that are really out of place and not introduced with any tact. You don’t realise you’re looking at an eight year gap in the story from one scene to the next right away – I don’t see why they couldn’t just tell the story in a straight forward manner. The movie is also, essentially, a dramatic love triangle. The melodrama found here is not engaging and kind of forces itself on us – I found it a bit slow, this is a site about manly movies after all. To the extent that the ‘siege’ that is happening takes a backseat. This means that Ewan McGregor’s character is barely in the movie. He’s not the most strongly written villain because he barely has a place, since romance is at the centre of the show.
There are good performances though, you don’t even need to be asked how Joel Edgerton does his job in this movie, another fine piece of acting, playing a hard bitten man of the old west who finds himself permanently taken a woman. I also liked McGregor’s sleazy antagonist when he appears, the first time I think I’ve enjoyed a McGregor role in God knows when, but his story in paper thin.
The Blu-Ray disc is unremarkable, at best. We’re kind of back to the old days of launch DVDs in terms of extras, when ‘scene selection’ was about the best you could hope for, that’s all there is here. That leaves us with the movie itself. A transfer I found to be decent in some places, strong in others – depending on the light and contrast. Director Gavin O’Connor sure likes his moody night scenes, almost too much, so I’m not sure that pitch blackness is actually the fault of the transfer itself. But the overall picture doesn’t disappoint, same with the audio. The audio is best when guns are fired, the DTS-HD 5.1 track thumps heavily, then dies out with smooth reverberation. I have not sampled the R1 release of this, so I can’t tell if anything has changed, but I suspect not. And with the movie’s troubled and delayed release, I think we’re all going to be holding out for those extras.
Jane Got A Gun releases on Region 2/PAL Blu-Ray on August 22nd.