Movie Review: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Basically, Robert Ford got picked on by the James gang and was a little cry baby so he took the job of shooting him in the back. The film shows domestic life back in the west, both within the gang of outlaws and in their families. That could be interesting, but this is not the interesting version of it. It's kind of like the Alexander of westerns, showing all the moments in between the cool stuff that happens off camera.
There are a few cool western scenes. The train robbery is well lit and the plain gunshots, without enhanced resonant booms, are more shocking. Notice, I just complimented the lighting of one scene in this movie. That's where I'm pulling from.
There's a cool gunfight at close range with totally lousy marksmanship, but at least it's a burst of energy. And there's some interesting aftermath stuff with Ford. Frankly, the movie should have been about that with James shot in act one.
Brad Pitt gets to use that Legends of the Fall look with wide eyes and flared nostrils. Considering they make a point of his blinking condition, we don't actually see him blink much. He gets to be mean and cold with violent outbursts, and pensive and angsty in quiet times. It's an actor's dream, but it's not a character. We know James is in pain because the film tells us. You'll understand if you sit through it. Frankly, Pitt has already played this.
The filmmaking reeks of someone just trying to be important. Vaseline on the lens? Really, does blurring the sides make your "vision" more significant? A xylophone score, really? Does the sound of a middle school concert really convey the old west? And the narration, stop telling us what you want us to feel. Show it. Or at least make it sound not like amateur poetry.
It's plenty valid to show what a life of killing does to you, or how home life is for outlaws, but that's not really what this film achieves. It just shows Robert Ford crying that his gang is mean to him, so he does something. There may be tension around a character like James but you know what's coming, so there's not even that.
Again, it's not horrible. The acting is fine, there are a few interesting scenes, and I made it through it. But movies shouldn't be chores. Issue movies from Schindler's List to Hotel Rwanda are emotional and exciting, and I have to say that those are much more significant issues than cowboys who killed each other.