A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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 ...
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?
- In theaters: January 29, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: April 26, 2016
- Cast: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor
- Director: Gavin O'Connor
- Studio: The Weinstein Company
- Genre: Western
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence and some language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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