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This 'Jane's' a straight shooter, despite checkered past

As stripped-down, revisionist Westerns go, “Jane Got A Gun” may not have reinvented the wagon wheel, but it rolls out as a sturdy, well-crafted genre piece despite its rocky road to the screen.

Forced to defend the family homestead when the vengeful Bishop Boys arrive to settle a score with her badly injured husband (Noah Emmerich), Natalie Portman’s Jane Hammond prepares to confront the enemy, enlisting the paid assistance of her gunslinger ex-beau (Joel Edgerton).

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That’s the gist of the deliberately spare plotline, but Portman brings a credible, mournful resolve to her character. The supporting players, including a near unrecognizable Ewan McGregor, mustachioed with darkened hair as the gang’s coldly ruthless leader, are equally effective.

But ultimately, Jane’s own troubled history is overshadowed by that of the film itself.

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Director Gavin O’Connor signed on at the 11th hour after original director Lynne Ramsay abruptly left, and the production also went through numerous casting changes (Michael Fassbender and Bradley Cooper among them) and delayed release dates, with the Weinstein Company ultimately acquiring the film from bankrupt Relativity Media.

While the end result, in its current configuration, relies too heavily on flashbacks that prove more distracting than revealing, O’Connor mines some dense atmosphere from the extended silences preceding the inevitable bursts of tautly-executed violence.

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'Jane Got A Gun'

MPAA rating: R, for violence and some language

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Playing: In limited release

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