Considering its infamously troubled production history, the fact that this snappily titled Western came together so well registers almost as a shock. Taut, focused, infectiously hot-blooded, it’s a riveting tale of regret and revenge that, while breaking no new ground, proves awfully easy to enjoy.
The titular heroine (Portman) doesn’t have a weapon by her side when she’s home telling her young daughter bedtime stories in 1870s New Mexico. But when her husband returns badly injured one day, warning of an impending visit by “the Bishop boys”, her practiced movements prepping the firearms suggest she’s been anticipating this day for a while. Together with ex-fiancé Dan (a typically fantastic Edgerton), a reluctant ally from another painful past, they’ll avenge a terrible loss and defend whatever chance there’s left of a clean slate.
The script smartly recognizes the genre’s rustic appeal and boils the story down to the most primal of themes and emotions, introduced through skillfully placed flashbacks. O’Connor, assisted by strong cinematography and some nifty editing, cooks up tremendous tension for that final showdown the whole film’s been building towards, with high emotional payoff. Altogether a case of unchallenging but satisfying, ably executed cinema.
Jane Got a Gun | Directed by Gavin O’Connor (USA 2015) with Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor. Opens In NYC January 29