Jane Got a Gun has a reliable cast, but this supposedly feminist tale is relentlessly dreary, stacked with cliches and poorly executed.

A woman (Natalie Portman) asks her ex-lover (Joel Edgerton) for help in order to save her outlaw husband from a gang of killers.

Natalie Portman sincerely wants to help and provide opportunities for female directors. Unfortunately, it blows up on her face. After a number of production troubles, Jane Got a Gun finally sees the light of day.

The movie still managed to assemble a reliable cast. Professional weeper Natalie Portman provides a personable hardened Jane. Joel Edgerton fits the rugged soldier with a chip on his shoulder well enough to make you sympathize with Dan. Noah Emmerich manages to speak volumes for his character even with no dialogue. Ewan McGregor is perfect as the mustachioed sharp-eyed John Bishop. The supporting cast is good too, with an unrecognizable Rodrigo Santoro.

The cinematography, production design and costume are modest and indicate potential. The rust colored vistas, the costume, and set pieces are decent enough to stage a familiar western.

That being said, Jane Got a Gun doesn’t get past average with all the narrative cliches of post civil war life – the single mother who is left to fend for herself, the changed man who saves her from harshness of the western frontier, and the long lost love who lives on alcohol to numb his broken heart. Of course, you have your typical town with its brothel, coffin makers, and the gun store.

While there is nothing bad to using familiar elements, the movie doesn’t make any effort to make it distinct enough. Everything that you see here has already been done a dozen times before, even in B-movies. The plot focuses on Jane’s showdown with the Bishop boys which turns the whole story into a stalling game, filled with gaudy flashbacks reminiscent of The Notebook.

For all her intentions to make a female centric movie, Portman forgot one thing, a screenplay that actually does exactly that. Edgerton helped rewrite the screenplay with two other guys and the result is what you expect. The boys here get to do more, shoot more, and act more. The hesitant Dan still saves the day, plodding through his conflicting emotions. Ham is the bad guy with a golden heart, quietly seething on his possible deathbed. John Bishop is charming and mysterious with a certain level of power and notoriety. Jane is just there, a one dimensional reflection of women who had to endure harsh circumstances in those times.

The movie does manage to come alive in the climax. Jane finally gets to fire the gun, but it looks more of consolation prize rather than a proper reckoning. The movie finally wraps up in the end, but with a too little too late girl power moment, especially when you know all she had to do is wait and justify the title of the movie.

Jane Got a Gun manages to make it through a painful production but its obvious that the damage has already been done. Unfortunately for Portman who produced the film, good intentions ain’t always enough.

My Rating: 4/10

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