Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +4

Content: -3

Brad Pitt, Mary-Louise Parker, Brooklynn Proulx, Dustin Bollinger, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, Sam Shepard. Western. Written & directed by Andrew Dominik.

FILM SYNOPSIS: A take on the life of outlaw Jesse James andwell, I guess the title pretty much says it all.

PREVIEW REVIEW: This slow-paced and poignant character study gives viewers a three-dimensional look at what it must be like to ride with death, which is what outlaws did when they followed the likes of Jesse James. The desperate desperado had caught the imagination of many in his day due to the penny dreadfulls (booklets surrounding his escapades usually made up) who thought of him as a sort of Robin Hood, a man going up against corruption. Indeed, there are writings that maintain the James brothers turned to a life of crime because of injustice done to their family. In this adaptation, that view is mainly ignored. Here he is portrayed (incisively by Brad Pitt in one of his best roles) as a manic depressive who could laugh along with his men one minute, then turn violent toward them the next. Jesse is presented as mentally unstable, and his men either got killed due to his leadership or betrayed him for money and fame.

The look is authentic; the script, though too long due to unnecessary subplots, is nonetheless revealing, and the performances are riveting. And director Andrew Dominik makes use of an actors greatest tools his eyes. Instinctively, the performers expose volumes of inner emotions with a few mere expressions.

In one scene, Jesse, who was the son of a minister, is seen reading the Bible. But Jesse chose a road of rebellion and revolt, which led to a spiritual and physical death. Church, prayer and the Bible are displayed, showing us a time when men were brought up on such reverential tools. Sadly, these men didnt adhere to scriptural teaching.

While I appreciate the grandeur of the production and the artistry displayed, still I left depressed. I had just spent 2 hours and 40 minutes with a story that, while insightful and even metaphorical, did nothing to feed my soul. After sitting through its graphic depiction of the true nature of criminals, I now needed something to raise my spiritual spirits.

Interesting fact: Neither Jesse nor any of his gang is heard profaning Gods name in this production. Alas, a supporting player is heard in the final act using Gods name followed by a curse three times. I can handle rough language or brutal violence when it is done to expose the inner character or promote the films theme, but when a GD is uttered in a movie, for me it says the actor has little regard for the Third Commandment. He is forthrightly stating, I dont believe in God and I dont care if you do. I feel sad for him, because one day he will care.

DVD alternative: Jesse James. Though it is steeped more in Hollywood glamour than historical fact, the 1939 version (its in color) with Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda and John Carradine, is genuine western fun. That said, this newer version doesnt try to exempt the James boys from their outlaw ways, where the older film furthers the myth that they were just put-upon and misguided. The earlier version doesnt have the excessive violence or offensive language, but it also prefers legend over fact.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Warner Bros.

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: In one or two scenes, one man crudely discusses sexual matters

Obscene Language: Three or four obscenities, and a couple of minor expletives.

Profanity: Three profane uses of Gods name.

Violence: Though not done with an exploitive intent, there are several jolting killings, the visual being graphic and bloody. A man commits suicide. Blood: We see a large quantity of blood draining from a gunshot victim like spilled paint. Several bloody gun battles. There is an air of violence throughout due to the leads volatile nature.

Sex: One scene suggests a sexual encounter. The woman is committing adultery.

Nudity: None, though in one scene we see a woman sitting in the outhouse, her dress pulled up. A dead mans naked backside is seen as he is dumped into an unmarked grave.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Some drinking and several characters, including the lead, smoke.

Other: None

Running Time: 160 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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