The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (review)

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“I don’t know what it is about you, but the more you talk, the more you give me the willies.” So says one of the James gang to Robert Ford, whose syrupy-sweet quality we recognize today as the unctuousness of a stalker, and maybe even set off some alarm bells for Jesse James himself, star of America’s nascent pop culture that he was. Or maybe not. James is in semiretirement in the 1880s and paranoid with it — he sees Pinkerton detectives everywhere — but not paranoid enough: threats come from within his still loosely assembled gang, and the end of thieving means the rewards for turning in Jesse are all the more appealing. A measured, brooding meander through dreams of loyalty, shadows of treachery, and the particular psychoses of celebrity for those on both sides of stardom, this is a film alternately startling and melancholy, in which gunshots are never more than dull thuds, death is ugly and unheroic, and unlikely stars are born. The acclaim accruing around Brad Pitt’s (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) pensive performance as Jesse is well deserved, but who’da thunk Casey Affleck (Ocean’s Thirteen) would suddenly become a force to be reckoned with in his creepy, prickly Ford? [buy at Amazon]

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Sun, Feb 10, 2008 11:29pm

I really liked Affleck in the lead role. And I look forward to seeing more from Dominik in the future.

Mon, Feb 11, 2008 1:20am

it’s nice to get a Terrence Malick movie while we’re waiting for another Terrence Malick movie…

Mon, Feb 11, 2008 1:21am

Absolutely. :-)

Mon, Feb 11, 2008 7:49am

The family of Jesse James have posted their own 5 page review of this movie on their family web site, together with stories about the James family’s former experiences with Hollywood and Jesse James movies.

Mon, Feb 11, 2008 1:11pm

I can see why the pros liked this one. But it was really, really slow. Kind of dreamy slow. Parts of it were beautiful, but the average movie watcher will turn this off or fast forward it. We saw it the one weekend it played here , and while there was a pretty big crowd, I swear I heard snoring from multiple spots.

MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Feb 11, 2008 4:23pm

Not every movie is intended for every moviegoer.

Tue, Feb 12, 2008 10:43pm

Very true. But this is one of those cases where I do believe that some scenes could/should have been cut and the overall pace and timing tightened up. It still would not have appealed to everyone (average was a bad choice of words, average spent a pant load to see Superbad), but it is sad that very few people besides critics and film students will see it.

Tue, Feb 12, 2008 10:54pm

Eric, that review was fantastic. Thanks for sharing it!