Even if you weren’t hip to all of the production woes that went along with the making of Gavin O’Connor’s pedestrian death western Jane Got a Gun, you’d still walk out with the suspicion that something must have gone awry. Since the film’s last-minute rewrites, casting switcheroos, and musical chairs behind the camera are irrelevant to the actual quality of the movie, I’ll avoid rehashing them here, save to say that the disarray shows on screen.
Natalie Portman plays the title character – a pistol-packin’ pioneer woman in the New Mexico Territory circa 1871 whose husband (Noah Emmerich) runs afoul of the dreaded Bishop Boys (led by Ewan McGregor who sports an inky black triangle-shaped mustache, chomps on a cheroot, and smiles fiendishly behind what appear to be prosthetic buck teeth). With her beau riddled with bullets and unable to get out of bed, Jane enlists the help of her bitter ex-lover (Joel Edgerton, reteaming with the director of 2011’s much-better Warrior) to fend off the Bishops’ siege.
While Portman emotes and Edgerton broods, McGregor all but twirls that mustache of his in what few scenes he gets. I’m guessing there were more that wound up on the cutting-room floor, but either way, he’s just not a satisfying, fleshed-out villain. In fact, all of the characters feel more sketched than drawn. Still, even with its relatively svelte 97-minute running time, O’Connor’s dirge-like oater takes what feels like an eternity to build to its inevitable climactic spasm of bloodshed. Jane Got a Gun is a slow fuse of a film that burns to a whimper instead of an explosion. C