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Jane Got a Gun

There's been a resurgence of westerns in recent months, including Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight and S. Craig Zahler's Bone Tomahawk. And only last week Kevin Costner revealed he was keen to ask some Brit actors 'to come play cowboy with me'. But it's not only the boys who are keen to revive the genre. Natalie Portman's been toiling away, in her role as a producer as well as star, on Jane Got A Gun, and while it finally reaches screens, it's not been an easy trek. During production, director Lynne Ramsay stepped down, and was hastily replaced by Gavin O'Connor, while both Michael Fassbender and Bradley Cooper were also reportedly attached before they decided to run for the canyons. Despite its rocky road to fruition, the movie's far from a calamity. It begins in 1871 in New Mexico, where Bill Hammond (Noah Emmerich), strewn with bullets, makes his way back to his humble and isolated smallholding, where his no-nonsense wife Jane (Portman) tends to his wounds. He reveals he's upset the outlaw John Bishop (Ewan McGregor) and now he and his men are on their way to seek revenge. Jane gallops off into the dessert to drop their young daughter off with a neighbour before calling in on the drunkard gunslinger Dan (Joel Edgerton) to ask for his assistance. It soon transpires the two have history. They were engaged when Dan left to do his bit in the Civil War, and years later, Jane, believing he'd died, married Bill when her life took a downward turn and he saved her from a squalid life. This is told through sporadic flashbacks, which are all well and good until Jane and Dan's younger selves take a hot air balloon ride bathed in golden sunlight and we suddenly find ourselves in Nicholas Sparks territory, not the hardened world of the western. Despite his initial protestations, Dan agrees to help Jane and her husband and the film builds to the climatic shootout. A moustachioed McGregor exudes a surprising amount of menace, the famous blue eyes eerily steely; Edgerton puts in a sturdy performance as the former lover, and a near-mute Emmerich is poignant in an intimately shot scene between Bill and Dan. Academy Award-wining Portman is reliably impressive and demonstrates her determination to keep the film on the straight and narrow despite any trials they endured. Unfortunately, aside from the odd dubiously-pitched flashback, it's the overly sentimental finale that lets the film down. A shame really, as it had the potential to shoot and kill it.