Principal photography began on March 21, 2013. The film was released on January 29, 2016.
Jane and her husband Bill "Ham" Hammond live in an isolated house with their five-year-old daughter Katie. One day Ham returns home with several serious bullet wounds. As Jane is attending to his injuries, Ham tells her that "the Bishop Boys are coming". This is a gang of vicious criminals, led by John Bishop, that Ham himself used to ride with.
Realizing that she is going to need help in order to defend her home and family from the Bishops, as Ham's injuries have rendered him helpless, Jane takes her daughter to a place of safety, with a woman friend whom she trusts. She then rides to the home of a neighbor, Dan Frost, and asks him if he will help her to protect her property from the Bishop Boys. Dan, a somewhat surly man who lives in a squalid, dirty house, refuses to help. It is obvious from their brief conversation that there is some past history – and bitterness - between Dan and Jane.
Jane rides into town to buy guns and ammunition and hopefully find someone who will help her family. As she is leaving the gun shop, she is waylaid and dragged into an alley by one of the Bishop gang. He threatens her at gunpoint and – despite Jane protesting that she "hasn't seen Hammond in years" – he demands that she take him back to her house, as he is convinced that Ham is there, having recognized the gun Jane is carrying as one belonging to Hammond. However, at this point Dan Frost suddenly appears and tells the thug to leave Jane alone. While the two men are distracted, Jane draws her gun and kills the outlaw.
Leaving the body in the alley, Jane and Dan ride back to her house. Ham is still alive, but very weak. Dan has changed his mind about helping Jane, so they start preparing for the expected attack from the Bishop gang.
Meanwhile, Bishop has already set out with his gang to find Ham. His men spread out over the area to extend their search, and one of them chances upon Jane's house. He recognizes Jane, but Dan kills him before he can raise the alarm.
Dan digs a shallow trench in Jane's front yard, and they fill this with jars containing kerosene, nails and pieces of glass. As they work, we see flashbacks of their previous lives. Jane and Dan were once engaged, but he enlisted in the army to fight in the American Civil War. Captured by the enemy, he was held for years in a prison camp, and when he finally returned home, Jane had left. He travelled from state to state trying to find her, showing her photograph in every town. Eventually, he heard that she had moved west on a wagon train led by John Bishop. Dan talked to Bishop, who told him that during the journey Ham and Jane ran off together. He said he would gladly help Dan to track them down, as he had his own scores to settle with Ham, but Dan refused, saying that he preferred to ride alone.
Dan eventually found Jane, but by then she was married to Ham, and they had had a child. Dan realized that he had lost her forever and was left broken-hearted by the discovery.
Later, Jane tells Dan her side of the story. After Dan left to enlist, she discovered she was pregnant. When Dan did not return, or write, she assumed he was dead. By the time their child, a little girl called Mary, was two or three years old, life in Jane's war-torn town had become so wretched that she decided to take Mary and move West on the Bishop wagon train. Too late, she and the other women on the wagon train realized that Bishop's intention was to start a brothel in another town, and he intended to force the helpless women into prostitution.
A further flashback shows that Ham, having taken a fancy to Jane during the wagon train journey, tells Bishop that he would like to marry her. But Bishop tells Ham that Jane is his "property". Later, Ham finds that Jane and her daughter have gone missing; searching for Mary, he sees a child's boot in the river, and thinks the child has drowned. He goes to the brothel where Jane has been forced to work, and rescues her. Jane is distraught when Ham tells her that Mary is dead.
Back in the present time, the Bishop gang finally arrive at Jane's house, under cover of darkness. Dan and Jane fire into the booby-trapped ditch, igniting the kerosene "bombs". Most of the gang are killed, but some – including Bishop himself – escape. Jane and Dan manage to move the dying Ham into a shallow storage space beneath the floor, to protect him from the gunfire, but the strain is too much for him and he dies. Dan and Jane continue to fight it out with the remaining gang members, although both are wounded. Finally, Bishop (the only gang member left alive) manages to corner Dan and is about to kill him, when Jane sneaks up behind Bishop and draws her gun on him. Trying to persuade her not to kill him, Bishop tells Jane that Mary is not dead, as she had thought. Jane shoots him several times, wounding him badly, until in his agony he reveals that Mary lives at the brothel. Jane then kills Bishop.
Jane and Dan go to the brothel and find their daughter, Mary, who is working as a servant. Jane takes the bodies of John Bishop and his gang to the sheriff and collects a huge reward. Then she, Dan, Mary and Katie ride off together to start a new life as a family.Natalie Portman as Jane Hammond
Joel Edgerton as Dan Frost
Noah Emmerich as Bill "Ham" Hammond
Rodrigo Santoro as Fitchum
Boyd Holbrook as Vic Bishop
Ewan McGregor as John Bishop
Alex Manette as Buck
James Burnett as Cunny Charlie
Sam Quinn as Slow Jeremiah
The script by Brian Duffield appeared on the 2011 Black List, an annual listing of the most popular unproduced screenplays.
In May 2012, it was announced that Natalie Portman would star in the film as the title character Jane Hammond and that Lynne Ramsay would direct. In August 2012, Michael Fassbender was reported as being in talks to play the role of Dan Frost, Jane's ex-lover. In December 2012, Joel Edgerton was cast as John Bishop, the villain of the film. On February 4, 2013, Rodrigo Santoro was announced to have joined the cast, playing a character named Fitchum. On March 11, 2013, it was revealed that Fassbender had had to leave the film due to scheduling conflicts with X-Men: Days of Future Past. Ramsay then recast Edgerton in the vacated role of Dan Frost and cast Jude Law in the role of John Bishop. On March 19, 2013, it was announced that Ramsay had left the production. On March 20, Gavin O'Connor was announced as her replacement. The same day, it was also announced that Law had left the film, for the reason that he had signed on to work with Ramsay.
Cinematographer Darius Khondji also left the production, and was replaced by Mandy Walker. Edgerton and Anthony Tambakis, co-screenwriter of O'Connor's previous film Warrior, were then hired to rewrite Duffield's script. On April 5, 2013, it was announced that Bradley Cooper would replace Law in the role of John Bishop. On April 10, 2013, it was announced that Noah Emmerich had been cast in the final lead role of Bill Hammond, Jane's husband. On May 1, 2013, it was announced that Cooper was withdrawing from the film. Cooper revealed that he was leaving because of scheduling conflicts with American Hustle. On May 6, 2013, Ewan McGregor was announced to take over the role of John Bishop from Cooper. On June 3, 2013, Boyd Holbrook was announced to be playing the younger brother of John Bishop.
In January 2015, the first images from the film was released online. On October 5, 2015, the first international poster was released. On October 21, 2015 the first international trailer was released. On December 7, 2015, the second and final international trailer was released.
Originally the film was set to be distributed in the U.S. by Relativity Media, and The Weinstein Company. The film was originally announced that it would be released on August 29, 2014, which the studio cancelled on April 10, 2014. On April 24, 2014, the studio set a release date for February 20, 2015 for the film, which was later moved back to September 4. In July 2015, Relativity Media lost their distribution rights to the film, amid their filing for bankruptcy. The Weinstein Company then acquired the film, with plans of releasing the film in Europe first prior to the U.S. release. The film was released in the United States on January 29, 2016.
This movie was a box office bomb. The film was released in North America on January 29, 2016, with a projected opening weekend gross around $1 million from 1,210 theaters. However, the film only grossed $865,572 with a per theater average of $691. It is the worst wide release opening for The Weinstein Company.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 39%, based on 72 reviews, with an average rating of 5.1/10. The site's consensus reads, "Jane Got a Gun flounders between campy Western and hard-hitting revisionist take on the genre, leaving Natalie Portman's committed performance stranded in the dust." Metacritic reports a score of 49 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Joe Leydon of Variety gave the film a positive review writing: "A solidly-made and conventionally-satisfying Western, is one of those movies. For those who have perused the countless accounts of last-minute cast changes, musical directors’ chairs and repeatedly-delayed release dates, it may be difficult to objectively judge what actually appears on screen here without being distracted by thoughts of what could have been, or should have been."
Jordan Mintzer of The Hollywood Reporter also gave the film a positive review writing: "Filming on location in New Mexico, O’Connor and his team make strong use of the stark and sometimes-breathtaking exteriors, even if the drama is often confined to the Hammond homestead. Other tech contributions are solid, though this is a film whose production history may ultimately prove more memorable than what’s been produced: In Jane Got a Gun, the real bullets were the ones fired behind the camera."