In case you’ve forgotten, Jane Got a Gun is the much beleaguered Western starring Natalie Portman that suffered nearly every setback imaginable. And that was before the cameras even started rolling. Nearly three years later, it’s finally crawling into theaters on Friday.
Conceived by Brian Duffield and directed by Gavin O’Connor, the film tells the story of a 19th-century Southwestern frontier woman, whose life is upended when a gang of outlaws from her past threatens her family. Jane’s husband Bill (Noah Emmerich) returns home riddled with bullets courtesy of the legendary Bishop Boys, led by Colin Bishop (Ewan McGregor). To fight them off, she enlists the help of Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton), her former fiancé.
Even though Jane faces her adversaries to protect her husband and young daughter, the movie manages to make her, the protagonist, a supporting character in her own story. Worse, she’s a victim many times over, one who’s continually portrayed as a prize for the male characters to win. All anyone really seems to care about is who Jane “belongs to,” because it certainly isn’t herself. Whether it’s Bill, Dan, or Bishop, the men all claim ownership of her and engage in staring contests while uttering the occasional gruff, “She’s not your property” or, “A man taking a thing that don’t belong to him...” Even accounting for historical accuracy, it all feels more than a tad retrograde. It's hard to imagine that this is the movie that Portman (who also produced) envisioned when she signed on in 2012.
Anyway, back to the plot. In flashbacks, we see Jane and Dan’s courtship. Later, she comes to believe that her fiancé has died in the Civil War. So she heads west with Bishop’s caravan, only to discover that she has become a piece of inventory in a sex trade. But Bill, a member of Bishop’s team, takes a liking to Jane and notes that he’d like to “keep her for myself.” Bishop refuses, Jane is forced into prostitution, and Bill “nobly” rescues her, literally sweeping her off of her feet to start a new life as husband and wife. Did she forget that Bill was originally a part of the nasty gang that did her wrong? It might be a case of Stockholm syndrome, or it might just be that the film doesn’t respect Jane enough to allow her to say no.
Soon enough, the revenge-thirsty Bishop Boys put just enough lead into Bill to keep him on death’s doorstep. Speaking of which, Dan, it turns out, is not dead at all but a living, breathing, recently freed prisoner of war. He begrudgingly agrees to help Jane and Bill, though not without whining about how another man has taken his lady, and announcing that being scorned by Jane is worse than being tortured and beaten while in a prison camp. Women, am I right, folks? The men do lots of stuff: order Jane around, insult her, and mansplain at every available occasion. What a bargain!
Finally, let's talk about the title. While it is true that, near the end of the film, our gal does make use of a firearm, really, the “gun” that Jane “gets” is Dan, the big, strong man who protects her. If Jane Got a Gun had been interested in giving its main character any power of her own, instead of acquiring a weapon, she might have gotten the heck out of Dodge and joined Furiosa and Rey for a party out in the desert.
As Armas de Jane – Portuguese title
Jane Got a Gun – English title
A 2014 U.S. British co-production [1821 Pictures, Boies / Schiller Film Group, Handsomecharlie
Films, Scott Pictures, Straight Up Films, WeatherVane Productions, Unanimous Pictures (UK)]
Producers: Terry Dougas, Aleen Keshishian, Scott LaStaiti, Natalie Portman, Zack Schiller, Scott Steindorff, Katherine S. Chang, Kate Cohen, Marisa Polvino
Director: Gavin O'Connor
Story: Brian Duffield
Screenplay: Brian Duffield, Anthony Tambakis, Joel Edgerton
Cinematography: Mandy Walker (Amanda Walker) [color]
Music: Marcello De Francisci, Lisa Gerrard
Running time: 98 minutes
Story: A woman asks her ex-lover for help in order to save her outlaw husband from a gang out to kill him.
Jane Hammond – Natalie Portman
Dan Frost – Joel Edgerton
Colin McCann – Colin McGregor
Fitchum – Rodrigo Santoro
Bill Hammond – Noah Emmerich
Vic – Boyd Holbrook
Buck – Alex Manette
O’Dowd – Todd Stashwick
Cunny Charlie – James Burnett
Slow Jeremiah – Sam Quinn
Theodore – Chad Brummett
Marshal – Boots Southerland
Fur trader – Nash Edgerton
Fiddler – Robb Janov
Tannery man – James Blackburn
Brothel girl – Nicoletta Chapman, Darlene Kellum
Town folk / cowboy – Billy Fuessel
Dead gypsy woman – Wynema Gonzagowski
Women – Kristin Hansen, Lauren Poole
Townsman – Sean Helean
Barber – Jahan Khalili
Bordello patron - Rodger Larance
Grave digger – Ricky Lee
Casket maker – Robb Moon
Townsmen – Martin Palmer, Giuseppe Quinn
Photographer – Jaime Powers
Wagon woman – Kendra Tuthill
Baby Kate - Mia Wagenman
Stunt coordinator: Nash Edgerton, Al Goto
Stunts: John Branagan, Craig Branham, Troy Brown, Richard Bucher, Rebecca Hill Casey, Mark Chadwick, Laurence Chavez, Matthew Lee Christmas, J.J. Dashnaw (Jeffrey J. Dashnaw), Edward A. Duran, Nash Edgerton, Tom Elliott, Tommy Goodwin, Ryan Happy, Cassidy Hice, Kanin Howell (Kynen Howell) Billy D. Lucas (William Lucas), Keith Meriweather, Matthew Moss, Darrin Prescott, Mark Rayner, Rex Reddick, Tomas Sanchez, Paul E. Short, Gregg Smrz, Cooper Taylor, Sean Taylor, Cody Thornbury, John Trejo, Jordan Warrack, Mike Watson, Scott Workman (William Workman)