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DVD Review: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

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Directed by Andrew Dominik, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a movie that tells the final days of the outlaw Jesse James and, as the title indicates, his death at the hands of Robert Ford.  Starring Brad Pitt as the outlaw Jesse James, the film shows Jesse and his gang joined by Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) who grew up idolizing James.  However, like most childhood fantasies, the reality doesn’t live up to the fantasy and Ford quickly learns that Jesse and his gang are far from heroes.  It is this prompts Ford's decision to kill Jesse James.

What follows is a look Jesse’s last days and the film spends much time with how Ford both loves and hates him.   Ford is bullied by Jesse at times and that just makes Ford more determined to receive Jesse's approval; when that doesn’t work, it spurs him on to kill him.  Ford eventually succeeds in killing James in a cowardly manner, and then Ford finds that he must live with what he’s done.  The film ends with Ford’s tragic fate, which, it makes clear, he ultimately has brought upon himself.

This film’s high caliber of actors only adds to the enjoyment of the film.  In addition to superb performances by Affleck & Pitt, we also have Mary-Louise Parker as Jesse's wife; Sam Rockwell as Robert’s brother, Charley Ford; Sam Shepard as Frank James;, as well as an all too brief appearance by the wonderful Zooey Deschanel.

I’m an extras junkie, throw in some deleted scenes, commentaries, screen-tests, etc., and I’m very happy.  For some reason there are NO extras on this DVD, it’s just the movie and that’s it.  That is very disappointing to me, I realize with a running time of 160 minutes there probably aren’t many deleted scenes, but was no one available for a commentary?  The producers didn’t shoot any "making of" featurettes?  Something tells me there might be some double-dipping going on and that there will be a “Special Edition” of this film somewhere down the line. This annoys me because if there going to be extras hold back on releasing the DVD until they are ready, don’t just release a bare bones version.  There are some occasions where the re-release of a DVD is great, like the Serenity Special Edition, but for the most part, double-dipping is just the studios greed shining through.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a gritty western featuring great performances by a stellar cast, but the lack of extras prohibits me from giving the DVD a higher grade.  I would rent this DVD and wait for the inevitable The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Special Edition DVD before purchasing.

Grade:  B+ (film), D (DVD)

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  • Eric

    The family of Jesse James have posted their own 5 page review of this movie on their family web site, together with stories about the James family’s former experiences with Hollywood and Jesse James movies.