The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Release Date: September 21, 2007
Limited release

Movie of the Day for Sunday, July 29, 2007
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It's a shame that men don't wear hats like these anymore.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
2/94 Shane Jenkins Some of the best cinematography I've ever seen, and in the service of a great story.
34/46 Les Winan Never finished it or maybe it would be higher. I appreciated the filmmaking and performances but ultimately had better things to do.
67/214 Max Braden Too slow, with distracting lense effects and narration that makes this feel like a History Channel doc, but Affleck and Pitt deliver some intense performances.

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Andrew Dominik first garnered attention when his violent Australian criminal underworld drama, Chopper, became a world-wide sensation. The film that introduced the world to Eric Bana – yes, The Hulk is partially Dominik’s fault – told the story of a murderous thug named Mark Read aka Chopper. The gritty, sadistic look at the life of an unsympathetic felon shocked and fascinated North American indie film viewers when it was released here in April of 2001. Over the past six years, fans of the cult classic have anxiously anticipated Dominik’s next project. That day is finally near, and the most surprising part is that this movie is not a low-budget indie production. Instead, it’s a $30 million Warner Bros. release starring one of the biggest names in Hollywood, Brad Pitt.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is the theatrical adaptation of the book of the same title written by Ron Hansen. The story chronicles the events leading up to, well, the moment the title describes. Notorious outlaw Jesse James is being tracked by bounty hunters, but he is so quick on the draw that none of them presents him with a real challenge. His undoing comes from an unexpected source. Robert Ford becomes a member of the infamous James Gang, claiming that his brother Charles and himself want to ally themselves with the best thieves in the world. Since the James Gang had been struggling with cash and thereby losing recruits who were not making the money they had been promised, Jesse was happy to gain new allies. The Fords were invited into James’ home in order to provide optimal bodyguard protection at all times. Given the $10,000 bounty on James’ head, such security measures were necessary. The miscalculation he made was in not recognizing that Ford intended to get close enough to James in order to claim the bounty for himself.

None other than the governor of Missouri at the time, Thomas Crittenden, had offered the bounty. Ford aimed to collect. When given access to the home of Jesse James, his wife and children, Ford proceeded to find the perfect moment and shot James. In the back. Like a coward. Ford would later state that he did so, because he believed James had deduced his true intent. To his surprise, he was not hailed as a hero for his slaying of the Wild West’s most notorious outlaw. In fact, he was not fully rewarded the promised bounty and wound up facing murder charges due to the slimy nature of his gunning down a man who had his back turned.

While Brad Pitt’s casting as Jesse James seems like a masterstroke, this production has been struggling for a long time now. It was originally intended to be a major awards contender in 2006. Instead, its release was pushed back from September of February then later to the currently scheduled date of September 21, 2007. Needless to say, it’s rarely good when a movie gets pushed back a full calendar year. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is currently a project that could go either way. Eighteen months ago, it appeared likely to be a major factor during the 2006/2007 Oscar campaign. At this point, re-shoots and new editing could still save the production, but it’s obvious that Warner Bros. was unhappy with the movie Dominik initially handed to them. Whether improvements have been made will decide the fate of what should be/should have been a great movie project. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Main Cast Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard
Supporting Cast Mary-Louise Parker, Jeremy Renner, Paul Schneider, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel
Director Andrew Dominik
Screenwriter Ron Hansen
Distributor Warner Bros.
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site
Rating R
Awards Awards page for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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