The Blu-Ray for ‘Jane Got a Gun’ Continues the Trend of Neglect for This Revisionist Western

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Throughout the production process, every movie goes through some form of hardships in trying to bring their vision to the screen. Most of the time, these problems are kept behind the scenes, never a whisper of the problems extending beyond the inner circle of those who worked on the film and their close associates. However, when word spreads that a production is in troubled, there’s a sense that the well has been poisoned. Investors get scared, cast members pull out, and presold distribution rights are thrown into question. That’s what happened to Jane Got a Gun, the revisionist Western starring Natalie Portman. While it may not have been a total crowd-pleaser, Jane Got a Gun didn’t receive a fair shake from its distributor, and probably generated more digital ink for its production issues than for the movie itself.

After a series of delays to production which caused a few stars (including Bradley Cooper and Michael Fassbender) to drop out of the production, Jane Got a Gun was all ready to begin shooting. The remaining actors had their roles shuffled about a bit, with Joel Edgerton moving from villain to romantic lead, but after all the stops and starts, the hot script from the Black List was ready to go before the cameras. There was just one catch – the director, Lynne Ramsay, was a no-show on the first day of production, having left the film without telling a soul following a lengthy standoff with one of the film’s producers. Suddenly, one of the hottest projects in town turned ice cold.

Now the oft-delayed film would be delayed even further, as Ramsay was replaced with Gavin O’Connor and Jude Law became the latest star to depart, replaced by Ewan McGregor. Joel Edgerton and Anthony Tambakis would do a rewrite of Brian Duffield’s original script. After all the starts and stops, with the stops outnumbering the starts, Jane Got a Gun would finally head into production. For real this time. However, the bad press seemed to rattle the folks at the Weinstein Company. To the surprise of many that cover the film industry, Jane Got a Gun was quickly shuffled into the theaters in January. All but abandoned by its distributor, Jane Got a Gun was a flop.

The questions that remains is: Did Jane Got a Gun deserve its fate? The answer is no. Jane Got a Gun is a slow burn Western, one that sets up all of its pieces to establish an emotional connection between its characters so the violence has some weight, not merely just an anonymous bloodletting. In the film, Jane (Natalie Portman) has tried to reestablish her life in the aftermath of the Civil War. Her husband Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich), a former outlaw, has been wounded, and warns Jane that a violent posse led by the nefarious John Bishop (Ewan McGregor) is coming to finish the job. In order to stop the violent forces encroaching, Jane attempts to enlist the help of Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton), with whom Jane has a sordid past. Before the war, Jane and Dan were lovers with a hope to spend their lives together. Of course, things don’t work out as planned for the characters.

All of the interconnecting relationships leaves the climax of Jane Got a Gun much more interesting due to the moral decision of Dan to assist Jane and the ailing Bill. It’s compelling as Dan makes the moral decision to defend Jane and her husband despite his past love for Jane and the unceremonious end to their relationship. In the dark of night, the fateful showdown occurs as the traps laid by Jane and Dan burn around the secluded homestead they’re defending, illuminating the barren surroundings slowly being covered in blood.

The violence of Jane Got a Gun isn’t limited to just gun-slinging. Throughout the film, Jane has to deal with the cruel surroundings of a world that is indifferent towards sexual violence against women. In the past, Jane has been the victim of cruel sexual assault, and the threat of future occurrences hangs over head everywhere she goes. Of course, this could be a perilous situation for a male director and male writers to deal with, but they simply skirt that issue by not leaving Jane as a completely helpless character. As a matter of fact, Jane is quite competent and capable of taking care of herself. There’s a clear line between Jane being in need of help from Don and making her helpless, which she’s not.

With a movie that was underappreciated and was produced under unusually dramatic circumstances, one would think that the DVD/Blu-Ray for Jane Got a Gun would contain some interesting tidbits of information in its special features department. However, that just doesn’t happen. Like the film’s theatrical release, the Blu-Ray of Jane Got a Gun seems as if it is being released as nothing more than a contractual obligation, with nary a special feature to be had on the disc. It’s a shame. Audio commentary or a making-of documentary would be really fascinating for this particular film, but there’s nothing to be found here. Look, there may be reasons that extend deeper than the surface preventing any special features on the disc – a number of lawsuits have been filed concerning the film and its production issues could have introduced some insurance-related snafus. As a fan of cinema, it’s simply disappointing that there’s nothing extra to accompany the feature.

There’s no reason to believe that Jane Got a Gun will be rediscovered as a masterpiece that was obscured by its production troubles like Heaven’s Gate. But there’s no reason that the film shouldn’t at the very least go through some critical evaluation. This isn’t an all-time great Western, but it’s not a bad movie. Gavin O’Connor’s film has some interesting thematic elements, a solid lead performance from Natalie Portman, and some fine cinematography by Mandy Walker. For a multitude of reasons, Jane Got a Gun was forced into obscurity by its distributor and the Blu-Ray release only seems to confirm that they’re determined to keep the film in obscurity. No film is easy to make. Even when films have troubled productions with details that seep out into the press, that shouldn’t define a movie. Jane Got a Gun is a movie that didn’t deserve its neglected fate. It may not be a great movie, but it’s so much more than the production troubles that surrounded it.

Jane Got a Gun
  • Jane Got a Gun
3

Summary

With some interesting themes and gorgeous cinematography, Jane Got a Gun is a pretty good revisionist Western that was obscured by its production troubles.

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