The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Categories: Movie Reviews
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Published on: 2008.07.05

I was surprised to hear that this movie (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) was acclaimed so well — I didn’t know this until after I watched it. Even without knowing its history with the critics, I still expected more. After all, this is Brad Pitt!

I can’t tell you how many of Pitt’s roles were amazing to me — 12 Monkeys, Snatch, Meet Joe Black, just to name a few.

But it in this movie, where Pitt plays the outlaw Jesse James, I thought it was dismal. Half the time, Pitt sounded like he was from Kentucky, and the other half of the time, he sounded like Brad Pitt (born in Shawnee, Okla.)

On the other hand, Casey Affleck was tremendous in his role as the coward Robert Ford. In real life, Ford is the one who killed James. It wasn’t “murder,” because the U.S. government had a price on James’ head. And it wasn’t “assassination,” because James wasn’t a political figure. But James was shot in the back by Ford, after Ford had become known as a close associate of the outlaw — thence the reputation as a coward.

Unlike some other re-tellings of the story, this one doesn’t try to make Jesse James out to be a hero, or anything other than a cold-blooded killer who later in life suffered from a heavy conscience. Thank goodness for that.

But other than the somewhat realistic telling of the tale, and brilliant acting by Affleck and Paul Schneider, the movie probably shouldn’t have been made.

The view kept blurring out around the edges, apparently in an attempt by directors to emulate the old-style camera lenses of the late 19th Century. It was just distracting. The actors mumbled so much, in an attempt to hide the fact that their accents weren’t correct, that you couldn’t understand half of what they said. (Real country people don’t mumble; they actually speak with the accent and pronunciation of their area; these actors should have realized that.)

The movie also spent a lot of time following characters that hadn’t really been developed, leaving Jesse James out of the picture for up to 30 minutes at a time. Then we find out that those characters aren’t terribly important; apparently the story lines were added in just to kick the movie over two hours.

The action was limited to a train robbery early in the movie and the killing of Jesse James near the end.

If you’re looking for a great modern western movie, go rent 3:10 to Yuma.

IMDb: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Wikipedia: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Rating: R
(some strong violence and brief sexual references)
Length: 160 min (2:20)
Director: Andrew Dominick
Genre: Biography / Crime / Drama / Western
My Rating: 6 of 10
Family Friendly: Early in the movie, there are several crude references to sex, and late in the movie there are a couple of violent scenes.
Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, James Carville, Sam Rockwell, Sam Shepard, Paul Schneider, Mary-Louise Parker, Brooklynn Proulx, Dustin Bollinger

  1. says:

    I only ever liked Brad Pitt in Fight Club.

    By the way, did you ever review No Country for Old Men? Abby and I loved it.


  2. Wil says:

    I did see that one, but never reviewed it. I guess I loved it until the ending, when NOTHING happened. It was a little strange for me, almost too much like real life.

    I prefer at least some kind of wrap-up at the end.

    “No Country” was definitely better than “Jesse James,” but not on par with 3:10 to Yuma, at least in the opinion of my wife and I. :-)

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