Jane Got a Gun (2016): Troubled Hannie Caulder Remake (Review)

Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton

It took almost three years for this tepid and troubled remake of “Hannie Caulder” to be released. Taking so long, in fact, that co star, and co-writer of Jane Got a Gun, Joel Edgerton wrote, directed and co-starred in his own film, “The Gift.”

However, apart from the female protagonist being raped by a gang of unpleasant villains, there is little to tie these two films together. Jane, played by Natalie Portman, does not benefit from a Robert Culp type character who spends a good bit of time teaching her how to win in a gunfight.

The villains are not grotesque off-shoots of humanity; all bigger than life and equally disgusting while simultaneously being quite funny.  (The original gang, all three of them, were played by western stalwart Jack Elam and – fresh off their  The Wild Bunch roles as Dutch and the one of the bounty hunters – Ernest Borgnine and Strother Martin.)

A completely unrecognizable Ewan McGregor was the only “name’ in the villain’s camp and unlike the Caulder trio, never seemed to have laid a hand on Jane, let alone anything else. While  Jane Got a Gun went through two directors, one before a single  frame of film had been shot and a number of leading men, it  does entertain.

In many ways it is a superior film to the 1971 Raquel Welch original.  To be fair, “Hannie Caulder” was an attempt to cash in on flat brimmed hats, ponchos and a fast draw who could also dispense witticisms as well as bullets.   It was, after all, the age of the Spaghetti Western.

Jane Got a Gun does not depict Jane as a helpless “little woman.” When her husband comes home, shot to rag doll ribbons, she does not whimper or hesitate. This frontier wife straps on a gun and saddles up her horse. She takes the kid to a neighbors and heads to her  former fiancé’s  house and asks for help.

He refuses.

Rather than plead with the man, she heads to town to stock up on ammunition and dynamite. She is grabbed by one of the Bishop gang, the baddies who raped her and shot her husband.

Dan Frost  (Edgerton) almost intervenes but stops short of shooting the Bishop gang member. Jane does that herself.

Thus begins the long middle part of the film where Dan fortifies the house against the expected marauders and he and Jane share backstories.  Jane’s husband Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich) has little to do apart from lay flat on his back and drink whiskey for his pain. 

The plodding midway point does hurt the film somewhat. When the gang do arrive, the shootout is somewhat underwhelming. after all that preparation. Apparently the Bishops stopped to pick up a few friends to help out.

Jane Got a Gun has an ending that feels a little tacked on.  Without giving too much away, it has “happy Hollywood ending” written all over it.

Directed by Gavin O’Connor, who stepped in to replace Scottish director Lynne Ramsay (who had a falling out with producers after having a falling out with Michael Fassbender)  does a good job.

The film is too claustrophobic to have much  in the way of panoramic visuals but the few shots which are there to show the desolation of the homestead look brilliant.

Written by no less than three people:  Edgerton, Brian Duffield and Anthony Tambakis,  the film could have turned into a helpless hodgepodge of floating plot lines and ramshackle scenes. It does what is says on the label, however, and delivers a western with a strong female protagonist. 

Jane Got a Gun may have been influenced quite heavily by Hannie Caulder, it is a loose remake after all,  but it takes itself far more seriously. One cannot cast an Oscar winning actress in a role that requires her be a helpless female in any size, shape or form. (Portman’s character does not even cry, Edgerton’s, however, does get very teary eyed.)

It is a bit puzzling that McGregor decided to hide his well known visage behind a black mustache and heavy black eyebrows.  He does, however, “give good villain” although he does not appear too often in the film.

Overall, Jane Got a Gun is a 3.5 star film. It loses a bit for the claustrophobic setting and the lack of gunplay. While there is shooting, it is mostly from the other side and the good guys shoot very little in return.  Also, in the final scene, there is a close up of Jane’s gun. She has just told the villainous Bishop that she has two rounds (or as she calls them, “bullets”) left. The front of the gun’s chambers show all the “bullets” to be unexpended, in other words, the pistol is fully loaded. Oops.)

Jane Got a Gun is on Netflix at the moment and certainly worth watching.  Fans of westerns should enjoy it and fans of Portman may opt to suffer through an unloved genre to see her.

Thor: The Dark World Not Too Dark (Review)

Thor: The Dark World Not Too Dark (Review)

With the release date of the blu-ray and DVD of this film looming ever closer – the official date is February 25 – it seems a good time to have another look at this newest tale of the Asgardian hero with a big hammer; Thor: the Dark World takes place immediately after Thor and Loki depart earth for Asgard at the end of The Avengers, but, not before Odin (Anthony Hopkins) gives a history lesson about the Dark Elf Malekith; the story is grim, but the film itself is not too dark. Touches of humor are riddled throughout the film almost as if the director took notes from the master of humorous storytelling and director of The Avengers Joss Whedon.

Chris Hemsworth His Brothers in Arms and Arts

Chris Hemsworth His Brothers in Arms and Arts

Chris Hemsworth has said that he and his brothers are very competitive. He admits that he likes to win, especially over brother Liam and that Luke, the eldest, is the one who ensures balance and controls the tension. All three siblings are in the entertainment business as actors so their familial battles to win make them brothers in arms and the arts.

Black Swan (2010)

My take on Black Swan and I highly recommend you folks see the film! This was made back in February 2011. Enjoy!

Black Swan (2010): Repulsion in a Tutu

Directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Natalie PortmanMila Kunis and Vincent Cassel with knock out performances in smaller supporting roles by Barbara Hershey (as Mum) and Winona Ryder (as Last Years Girl) Black Swan  grabbed you by your metaphorical lapels and shook the hell out of you.

When I watched this film, I instantly thought two things. Firstly, that Black Swan made me think of Roman Polanski‘s    Repulsionand secondly that this was a “coming of age” film. Although at twenty-eight Portman’s character was a little too old to be reaching ‘self awareness’, but after watching her relationship with her mother, you can see why it has taken so long.

The plot in a nutshell is this: Girl is in a ballet company. The company decides their next performance will be of the Black Swan. Girl auditions for the lead in Black Swan. The director pushes the girl to explore her ‘dark’ side as the lead for Black Swan must be Apollonian and Dionysian in turns. In other words the lead must be both the white swan and the black swan. Girl experiences a lot of mental problems in her pursuit of self awareness. Girl gets the lead role. Girl performs.

The plot sound pretty innocuous but it packs a mean punch. Like Polanski’s Repulsion, Black Swan shows us the mental deterioration that is occurring in Portman’s character ( Nina Sayers) in her quest for the darkness in her soul.

Nina is obsessed with giving the perfect performance, period. She spends all her energy on getting everything technically perfect and as the White Swan she is just that, perfect. But the director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) tries to explain to Nina that perfection is not enough, that she needs passion and abandonment for the dual role. He shows her Lily (Mila Kunis) a new member of the ballet company. Lily’s performance shows fire and passion and reckless abandonment. This, he tells Nina, is what she must achieve.

Where this film excels is in showing us why Nina is so repressed.  Her mother, played brilliantly by Barbara Hershey, is scarily obsessed with her daughter and her career. Mother has controlled Nina’s life with the goal of Nina succeeding where mum failed. Mother is constantly reminding Nina that it was her birth that destroyed her career. Little wonder then, that at twenty-eight, Nina is obviously still a virgin.

Nina begins hanging around with the Dionysian Lily in the hope that she can find her own passion. After a night out on the town, the two girls wind up having lesbian sex in Nina’s bedroom. Or do they? As the film progresses, we begin to question what is real and what is imagined by Nina. Some scene we know are real.

The scene where Nina, after being told by her director to go home and “touch” herself, wakes up in the morning and begins to masturbate. As she comes closer to a climax, she twists her head and see’s her mother sitting in a chair by her bed, asleep. Nina’s reaction is one of horrifying embarrassment. Her passion is gone as if she’d been dowsed in ice water and the fact that her mother could have caught her masturbating is mortifying.  This scene we know is all too real and we cringe at the notion of Nina’s almost being caught by mum.

Other scenes cannot be real, Nina’s fixation with last years Black Swan,  Beth Macintyre  (played brilliantly by Winona Ryder) with the resultant effect of Nina seeing Beth in her house and during her lesbian sex session with Lily. These sightings can only be in Nina’s mind.

As a psychological horror film, Black Swan hits the nail so firmly on the head, that I was “creeped out” for three days after I watched it. I also took showers for the next three days, I was a bit leery of the bathtub after seeing the movie.

This is a “must-see” film. Set in the world of Ballet, it is about losing yourself and your mind. About what is real and what is not. It’s also about disturbing you and getting under your skin.