The Assassination of Jesse James – Review

One of the best Westerns ever is Tombstone. I’d call it the best ever, but Clint Eastwood had a run that can’t be ignored.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Holy Crap This is a Long Title got no love at all at the Box Office. My guess it’s because the entire movie is spelled out in the title. Then again, my theory falls apart when you consider The Return of the King or Titanic.

The legend of Jesse James is more famous than Brad Pitt, who plays him. Fortunately, the director decided to focus the story on Robert Ford played by Casey Affleck (No I did not intend to watch two Casey Affleck movies back-to-back.). This had the chance of being somewhat interesting. Afterall, you have one of the classic betrayals in history told from the point of view of the betrayer. How did Robert Ford, once loved and trusted by Jesse James, get to the point of shooting him in the back? It’s the classic hero’s fall from grace. It should have been brilliant.

Instead, it was dull. I think the problem was that the movie was almost three hours long and the story takes place after the James gang commits their last robbery. So you have a three-hour Western with no robberies. Yeah. Exhilarating.

I understand the director’s dilemma. In order to have your hero turn into a villain, it must take time. Otherwise, you end up with Anakin Skywalker who kills a guy (sorta) then agrees to slaughter a bunch of kids. All within five minutes.

But three hours of watching Robert Ford’s progression was taxing, even for watching on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Towards the end, whenever Brad Pitt was on-screen, I’d say, “There he is! Kill him!” However, I will say that when the moment finally arrives, it’s severely disturbing. The director plays out the scene so well, that applying the title of “Coward” to Robert Ford is justly deserved.

I’ll give the movie credit for its end. After the assassination, the movie fills in some of the history of what happens to everyone. I knew nothing of Robert Ford, so that part was very entertaining, but I also like documentaries. Take that for what you will.

But I gotta knock it one last time for its length. And here’s why.

There’s a narrator.

Narrators are put in movies to fill in the boring gaps. A three-hour movie with scenes that plod along like ents does not need a narrator. Period.

Grade: C+

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