Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007) Film Review
The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
The Hollywood fascination with Westerns that aren't quite Westerns continues with the latest from Andrew (Chopper) Dominik. There are no Cherokees coming over the hill, but this is a bygone world, full of wide-open landscapes (roaming buffalo need not apply), where men are men and women barely exist.
This latter is one of the reasons why homoeroticism bubbles close to the surface in this retelling of the relationship between Jesse James and Robert Ford. James is the strong, silent type but big on charisma - "rooms felt hotter when he was in them". Ford, on the other hand, is everything James isn't, a gangly 19-year-old, with little ambition save to hero-worship Jesse.
He is an outsider among outsiders in a gang on the wane, as one of his partners in crime puts it, "the more you talk, the more you give me the willies". We enter the story late in the history of the James gang, when, after a final, brutal job, the outlaws separate to lie low, with Ford heading off to the homestead with his brother Charley (a lovely pitched Sam Rockwell), cousin Wood (Jeremy Renner) and pal Dick (Paul Schneider).
The problem with this segment of the movie is that, lovingly acted though it all is, you really just want to get to the meat of the action – and the spoiler-ridden title – ie, how the hero-worshipping Ford comes to do the dastardly deed. Equally, there’s something not quite right about the boys. Although they all speak prairie-ese they are frightfully clean cut and, frankly, someone should have told make up that all those white teeth stick out like picket fences in period drama. But I’m digressing as much as the plot of this interesting, if unwieldy epic.
James goes back to the home cookin’ of his good wife Zee (Mary Louise-Parker), but isn’t averse to paying the occasional visit with menaces to his buddies, which leads them all to be in a state of fear when around him. Ford has worshipped him so long that when he is treated badly by James, he gets utterly bent out of shape in a way which will ultimately lead to Judas-like dealings with the authorities.
There is no disputing this film is far too long but the central relationship of James and Ford is fascinating. Watching Affleck carefully slide his character from acolyte to assassin is mesmerising and Pitt’s portrayal of the psychotic and, quite possibly, depressive James reminds you that he is a acting force to be reckoned with.
The biggest problem is, however, that when James is killed, the movies keels over, too – and yet it is to run on for more than 20 minutes more, during which all you can do, like Ford, is grieve for what might have been.Reviewed on: 30 Nov 2007