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Jane Got a Gun

4/10

Stars: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Boyd Holbrook, Noah Emmerich, Rodrigo Santoro

Director: Gavin O'Connor

Female gunslingers have made familiar film fodder since the days of Annie Oakley. The genre was perhaps at its height in the 1950s, although more recently Raquel Welch and Sharon Stone have both donned gunbelt and poncho; strong and sexy seem to be the dual requirements for these women, although few of the films have actually been very good, and this one does little to buck the trend.

Here it's the Israeli-born Portman's turn to take up arms, as a frontier woman whose husband (Emmerich) lies wounded, riddled with bullets from the Bishop gang, headed by an unrecognisable McGregor.

Taking their five-year-old daughter to safety with friends, Jane rides out to elicit help from her former love Dan (Edgerton), whom she had presumed killed in the Civil War. After the war, she'd joined the Bishops' wagons west, only to be pressed into prostitution, and have her daughter by Dan killed.

Now Jane gets her gun, and some dynamite too, but it's still a mighty slow ride, pardners, along a trail littered with idyllic flashbacks, before we get to the climactic shootout, which is too often dark and muddled.

This gloomy, tragedy-ridden piece nonetheless contains many of the clich├ęs of the genre; people knock glass out of windows as they prepare to mount a defence: don't these damned things open? And here's yet another film in which the villain has the hero at his mercy but doesn't shoot him. 'I pray that he comes,' says Dan at the end of another western with too little action. And we can but agree.

And gone are the days when westerns gave us all-American casts; the players here, from Israel, Australia, Scotland and Mexico - are cosmopolitan to say the least. Faded colour photography, too, makes this a tattered echo of western glories past. There is no copyright date on this (much troubled in the making) film.

David Quinlan

USA 2016. UK Distributor: LionsGate. Colour by deluxe.
98 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 20 Apr 2016