Jesse James is back on the
silver screen. He’s bad, he’s a
family man, and he’s tormented. In
his day he was more famous than … well, more famous than Brad Pitt is
today. So what happens when a 21st century superstar plays the
renowned bad man of yesteryear?
Not much, actually.
“The Assassination of Jesse
James by the Coward Robert Ford,” stars Brad Pitt as Jesse and Casey Affleck
as Robert Ford. Unfortunately the
movie, like the title, is too darn long at 2 hours and 40 minutes. What bothered me more than anything was that it took itself too
seriously. Each scene starts out
well, what with the gorgeous cinematography and keen sense of place of Roger Deakins
leading cinematographer working today—he’s done most of the Cohen Bros.’
films), and the interestingly disturbing music of
Nick Cave. But director Andrew Dominik
didn’t know where or when to stop a scene and get on with the story. I got the impression he wanted to make sure we were aware of what he was
doing, and to make doubly sure he used voice-over narration to drive home his
I’m not against long movies
per se. I sat at attention during “Lawrence of Arabia” ( 216 minutes) and
"The Godfather Part II” (200 minutes), both considerably longer than this
picture at 180 minutes.
I believe Dominik wanted to give
us time to mull things over, to appreciate Jesse’s quirky and dangerous
personality, to wonder who he’s going to kill next. But I never took Brad
seriously. He was trying hard but it didn’t take for me.
Casey Affleck on the other hand came across as a truly disturbed young
man, someone who could be obnoxious, creepy, and frightened at the same
time. Someone who could shoot Jesse James in the back.
Why another Jesse James movie? If you include such gems as “Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter” and
“Days of Jesse James” with Roy Rogers, and don’t count foreign films and
TV shows, there are more than twenty Jesse James movies--and many others where
he appears as a minor character. None, as far as I could tell, care much
about historical accuracy. The best of the bunch is “Jesse James” with Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda and Randolph Scott; the James brothers are depicted as misguided, yet heroic.
laudable and reasonable, that after more recent westerns such as Clint
Eastwood's "Unforgiven" and the remake of "3:10 to Yuma,"
that director Dominik aspires to a certain verisimilitude in a portrait of the
west's most famous outlaw. Trouble is, after a short time, I didn't really
It’s rated R for some strong
violence and brief sexual references.