Procedurally, “Jane Got a Gun” starts out easy on the brain. Jane (Natalie Portman) is a contented 1871 wife and mother in the New Mexican outback. Her husband, Bill (Noah Emmerich), rides up looking weary and unstable in the saddle. He tumbles to the ground and Jane learns he has been shot to hell by the Bishop Boys. Though not quite dead, he looks like a colander and has only the strength to tell her that the Boys will be showing up at their door looking to finish the job. (We discover later, via one of many flashbacks, that Bill killed four of the Bishop Boys about five years ago. So the Boys’ appetite for vengeance is substantial.)
Jane is a can-do gal. She digs the lead out of hubby, loads up a six-shooter, drops her daughter off with the neighbor lady and goes after the thugs who plugged her man. Because there are several Bishop Boys and only one of her, she seeks an associate who’s handy with gun. Who better than her old lover, Dan (Joel Edgerton)? Or maybe the question is: “Who worse?” Seems he’s still pretty displeased with the breakup.
Rejected by her bitter ex-boyfriend, Jane sets out to take on the gang single-handed but is brutally waylaid by one of the … wait for it … here it comes … Bishop Boys. This particular repellent person, Fitchum (Rodrigo Santoro), is about to do something heinous when ex-boyfriend Dan appears and points a rifle at his head. Fitchum points his pistol at Dan. The two exchange tense greetings at some length, giving Jane the opportunity to pull out her gun and blow Fitchum away.
Now, procedurally, the plot thickens. Actually, from here on, the plot congeals. The inevitable showdown is delayed by several increasingly irritating flashbacks intended to fill us in on the motives, emotions and personal histories of the chief characters. The final shootout is part Alamo, part “Home Alone” and all noisy. Suffice it to say, everyone gets what’s coming to him. Everyone but the viewer, who has invested an hour and a half in a choppy movie with unconvincing characters and a happy ending that is so sweet you could come down with diabetes.