Jane Got a Gun

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Jane Got a Gun Movie Poster Image
Violence, language in Western that never comes to life.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 98 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Advocates and rewards standing up to bullies -- but via the use of violence.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jane is a strong woman who takes action to protect her loved ones, but otherwise characters rely on violence and killing to deal with their persecutors.

Violence

Heavy guns and shooting, with blood spurts, serious wounds, and dead bodies. Explosions, bodies on fire. Digging bullets out of a person's skin; cauterizing a wound with gunpowder and flame (accompanied by howls of pain). Suggestion of a potential rape. Choking. Nasty scar. Dead bird (crashed into a window).

Sex

Implication that Jane has slept with two men (and had one child by each), although she didn't know that the first was alive when she slept with the second. Images inside a possible "whorehouse," though nothing graphic shown.

Language

Strong language includes a few uses of "f--k" and several uses of "s--t," plus "goddamn," "c---sucker," "son of a bitch," "hell," "whore," "prick," and "damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent whiskey drinking and smoking. Suggestions that characters are drunk and/or drink too much. No repercussions.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jane Got a Gun is a Western that features a strong, if violent, female character (Natalie Portman). Violence is very strong, with shooting and killing; characters die on screen, and there are blood spurts. Characters are also choked and catch on fire, and there's a scene of bullets being dug out of someone's flesh (and wound then cauterized with gunpowder). There's a brief suggestion of rape. A woman is rescued from what seems like a whorehouse, though nothing graphic is shown. Language is strong, with more than one use of "f--k," several uses of "s--t," and uses of "c---sucker," "bitch," and more. Characters drink whiskey and smoke cigarettes and cigars fairly regularly; one character may be drinking too much. It likely won't appeal to viewers who aren't already Western fans.

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What's the story?

In the New Mexico territory in 1871, Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman) is in the kitchen when her husband, Bill (Noah Emmerich), arrives home wounded -- he's been shot up by the evil Bishop Boys gang, who've been on their trail for years. Readying for an attack, Jane goes to the only person she knows who can help, gunslinger Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton). Unfortunately, Dan isn't too eager to offer assistance, thanks to his painful history with Jane, but he eventually agrees. As they prepare to face the vicious Bishop gang leader (Ewan McGregor), they share their individual stories, adding up to something closer to the truth. Only one mystery remains: What happened to the child Jane had after Dan left for the war?

Is it any good?

This Western doesn't have anything terribly wrong with it -- terrific cast, fine story and acting, appealing scenery -- but somehow it just never sparks to life. Another problem is that the strange title, JANE GOT A GUN (which recalls an Aerosmith song), suggests something rather raucous or even funny, perhaps even a movie about the outlaw Calamity Jane. But instead it's a very serious, rather low-key drama with no special flourishes and nothing out of the ordinary.

The direction by Gavin O'Connor (Miracle, Pride and Glory, Warrior) hints at a sense of duty, an attempt to honor the good and decent people of the old West. This approach might work with a sports movie, but a Western requires another level. The Old West setting involves a struggle between order and chaos, the old and the new. This movie doesn't seem to go beyond its surface story. That said, Portman and Edgerton (who co-wrote the screenplay) are both appealing in their roles.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Jane Got a Gun's violence. Is it thrilling or terrifying and gruesome? What are the repercussions of the violence? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Is Jane a strong female role model? Why or why not? Do her actions over the course of the movie change your opinion?

  • What's appealing/not appealing about the Western genre? How does this one compare to others you may have seen?

Movie details

For kids who love Westerns

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