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The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Updated on July 17, 2012
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Alicia has been an Author, Columnist, and Reviewer for 8 years. Her success came from perseverance plus organized goal setting.

Jesse James (1847 - 1882)

Robert Ford (1862 -1892)

Robert Ford and Jesse James dining together. Scene from "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford".
Robert Ford and Jesse James dining together. Scene from "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford".

Movie Review

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, released 2007, based on the novel by Ron Hansen (same title as the movie), and directed by Andrew Dominik was truly a fictional representation of the life lead by the outlaw Jesse James and his second gang. This movie was set at the same pace as the actual 19th century, very slow like molasses pouring. It had the characters discussing things more openly than they probably did in the 19th century, even if only between a group of men. In spite of the excellent acting by entire cast, my husband fell literally asleep in the first 30 minutes, then woke up and left the room upon the one hour mark of the 2 hours and 39 minutes in length movie; leaving me to watch the rest solo. I thought this film would get better, instead was relieved upon reaching the conclusion. My apologies to the cast and crew who did excellent work, including the very period costuming and props. Sadly the script was awful. Hope the novel this was based upon is better, afraid to even try reading Ron Hansen's book in case the opposite is true.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford begins with Jesse James (Brad Pitt), Frank James (Sam Shepard) and their gang (including Robert Ford played by Casey Affleck) preparing for the very last train robbery Jesse and Frank did together. It depicts Robert Ford as a very young, insecure and impressionable man; collecting the nickel-novels of Jesse James and regarding Jesse James as a mentor. The plot constructs how Robert Ford goes from worshipping Jesse James to fearing for his life, and out of extreme self preservation, at the prompting of his brother Charley (Sam Rockwell), completes the assassination of the famous notorious outlaw. The plot thickens as the remainder of Robert Ford's life is shown, including how his act of assassination affected him; causing remorse and regret. All Robert Ford desired was to be famous, looked up to, and revered like Jesse James. Instead the notoriety he received labeled him forever a coward.

Unlike factual accounts, this movie has Robert Ford murdering Jesse James because he and his brother Charley Ford feared Jesse James had taken them "on a ride for a supposed bank robbery" for the sole purpose of killing them like he admittedly had done to Ed Miller (Garrett Dillahunt), a member of their gang, due to lack of trust. No where in this movie did it make clear the truth, per historical accounts, records and documents, that Robert Ford was in league with the authorities and had agreed to murder Jesse James for the posted reward. It did have Robert Ford's end of existence accurate as far as how he died and by whom, even the reason behind Robert's assassination.

Remainder of primary cast (in order listed in the credits): Mary-Louise Parker (Zee James, Jesse's wife), Brooklyn Proulx (Mary James, Jesse's daughter), Dustin Bollinger (Tim James, Jesse's son), Jeremy Renner (Wood Hite, Jesse's cousin), Paul Schneider (Dick Liddl, friend of Wood Hite's), Alison Elliott (Martha Bolton), Lauren Calvert (Ida), Kailin See (Sarah Hite wife of Major George Hite), Tom Aldredge (Major George Hite, Jesse's uncle), Jesse Frechette (Albert Ford), Pat Healy (Wilbur Ford), Ted Levine (Sheriff Timberlake), and James Carville (Governor Crittendon). Hugh Ross expertly narrated throughout the entire film.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is rated R and on DVD. My recommendation is to avoid the painful viewing of this film. Normally I like the movies Brad Pitt and Sam Shepard act in, but this time, (even my husband who loves the Western movie genre agrees) this one was a stinker (like a skunk)!

For more information about Jesse James see:

2 stars for The Assassination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford


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