Or as I call it: "That terrible Western with Brad Pitt." The title itself is the first of many things wrong with this movie; it's too freakin' long. I’m amazed that they were able to cram it all onto the DVD case. It also takes away any real reason to watch the movie by telling you from the start: “Jesse James dies. Robert Ford killed him.” I know that people do know how certain movies like this will end (Titanic and Zero Dark Thirty come to mind), but this story isn't nearly as well-known.
The movie’s running time is about 3 hours. That wouldn’t have been so bad if the director had made any effort to make the movie somewhat entertaining. The characters are forgettable and the story goes in too many different directions.
The movie took itself far too seriously; others have dealt with Wild West-era outlaws in a far better fashion. Young Guns and its sequel Young Guns II are perfect examples. Screenwriter John Fusco did a terrific job of making Billy the Kid and his gang of Regulators into people that we as the audience could root for. It had action and humor, but had its serious moments and was honestly somewhat historically accurate. Judging by the finished product and the DVD commentary, the cast had a lot of fun making the movie. By comparison, every actor in Jesse James looked bored to death the entire time.
The movie’s worst offender as far as wooden performances goes was Brad Pitt. He sucked even more than he did in Interview With the Vampire; at least that time, he had Tom Cruise to back him by sucking even worse. Speaking of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, is it somewhere in their contracts that every other movie they star in must have homoerotic overtones? Top Gun and Interview With the Vampire, I’m looking at you.
The homosexual subtext in Jesse James feels terribly awkward and out of place. It is often hard to tell whether Robert Ford is obsessed with Jesse Jame’s legend (much like Tommy O’Folliard and Billy the Kid’s relationship in Young Guns II) or if he’s actually obsessed and in love with Jesse James himself.
There was a particular scene that really bothered me in this regard. Robert was staying with the James clan and wandered into Jesse’s bedroom. In a voiceover, he describes how he admired the suits in Jesse’s closet and drank from the water glass Jesse had left on the vanity. Get ready for this; Robert also “smelled the aroma of talc and lilac on Jesse’s pillowcases.” We’re treated to the visual of Robert rolling on the bed, rubbing his cheek again the bedding.
Casey Affleck plays Robert Ford as a very whiny, annoying, and creepy character. If the real Robert acted that way, he’s extremely lucky that Jesse didn’t put a bullet in his head within a few days of knowing him. According to imdb.com, Casey Affleck’s portrayal of Robert Ford earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Further proof that all Oscar judges care about these days is how artsy and pretentious a film is rather than if the actors actually do a good job in their roles.
I cannot emphasize enough that if you watch this movie, you are merely an observer. Nothing draws you in or makes you care about any of the characters. The movie feels like a dry, heartless documentary produced for PBS. In fact, they should have sent the movie straight to public television rather than ripping off those who went to see in theaters and/or rented the DVD.