The title should have been a dead giveaway. Just like the title, this movie is long. Every fucking thing about the movie is long. There are long scenes where nobody says anything. Then when they do speak, there are long pauses in between their sentences. There are long stretches where Jesse James just kinda stares off into space. There are long scenes where Robert Ford ogles Jesse James. There are long lengths of the film where nothing happens. Man, this flick is just long.
The title pretty much gives you everything you need to know about the movie. Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) is a coward who assassinates Jesse James (Brad Pitt). End of story.
For those who want to know more, I’ll indulge you. Robert Ford is a stalker. Much like Mark David Chapman, he idolizes his hero, Jesse James to the point of creepy obsessive-compulsion. He infiltrates Jesse’s gang and while everyone can see that the dude is clearly crazy, Jesse takes a liking to him. (“I don’t care who comes with me and I never did. That’s why they call me gregarious!”)
Ford slowly (and I do emphasize the word SLOWLY) learns that Jesse is not the man he read about in all of those dime novels and becomes disillusioned and pouts a lot. After about two hours worth of moping around, Ford aims to kill his hero. Jesse sort of intuitively figures out what Ford has in store for him and he accepts his fate willingly and calmly turns his back and waits for the inevitable.
Since the movie is so damn long-winded, it should come as no surprise to you that Jesse presents his back to Ford over and over again and waits and waits and waits to be gunned down. All Ford does is just sit there and you feel like standing up and yelling, “JUST SHOOT THE SON OF A BITCH ALREADY!”
What’s worse is that after the coward Robert Ford FINALLY assassinates Jesses James, the movie STILL isn’t over. The movie flashes forward a few years with Ford starring in an off Broadway play about how he killed James. After a lot more hemming and hawing, we eventually get to a scene where some other coward shoots Ford in the back, giving him his just desserts.
The early scenes of the film are quite good and hook you into the story, but there was no need for this thing to run almost three hours long. While the repartee between James and Ford in the beginning of the film is involving, it gets tiresome after about the second hour of Ford’s constant spaz attacks and James’ erratic behavior. Likewise, Pitt starts the movie off well although his performance gets more and more inconsistent as the film slogs on. You never really get a read on his character and his performance like the film; gets tedious after awhile. Affleck fares slightly better as the twitchy, uncomfortable-in-his-own-skin Ford. He is believable when he’s in stalker mode (at one point he sniffs Jesse’s bed sheets), yet he’s not nearly as convincing at playing the post-assassination Ford. It also doesn’t help that his “character development” during the latter scenes is mostly courtesy of the narrator’s incessant droning and not from his acting ability.
On the plus side, the movie resembles a western oil painting come to life and the cinematography would give Terrence Malick a hard-on. While there ain’t too much gore to be had, there is a juicy head shot about halfway through the flick. Sorry if this review seems a bit longer than it should, it’s just payback for me sitting through this long ass movie.