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

Have you ever seen 12 Monkeys? You know, the Bruce Willis monkey movie that didn’t actually have monkeys in it…at least that I remember. I guess there could have been a few. Not a great movie, but Brad Pitt is fantastic in it, and steals most of the scenes he is in. Watching that reminded me of something I have known for a while: Brad Pitt is not just a pretty face.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is set after Jesse James’ heyday, and Jesse is living under an assumed name with his wife and two children. He hires Bob and Charlie Ford to help him and his brother Frank (played by Sam Shepard) rob what turns out to be their last train. Charlie is played by the usually fantastic Sam Rockwell (The Green Mile, Galaxy Quest), and his brother Robert is played by Casey Affleck (The Ocean’s movies, Gone Baby Gone). Bob has idolized Jesse James his entire life, and read all the fictional novels that painted Jesse James as a modern day Robin Hood; but he becomes disenchanted when he meets and rides with the real thing. Slowly he discovers he will never be like the outlaw, or realizes he doesn’t want to be like him anymore. So the only way he can realize his dream of fame is to be the one who turns Jesse James in to the authorities. But from what we know of history (and the title of the movie) this doesn’t quite work out how Robert wants.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a very enjoyable movie; visually it is stunning and the director knows how to make the audience experience the tension that the characters feel on screen. When members of the James gang are nervous and not sure what Jesse is going to do, YOU feel it. “Is he going to kill him? Is he going to kill ALL of them? I DON’T KNOW! I should have read more history! I want my mommy!”

Brad Pitt is good as usual, completely believable as the outlaw with piercing blue eyes. Casey Affleck has been a huge surprise of the last couple of years. He was very good in Gone Baby Gone, and is very good in The Assassination of Jesse James by That Coward Bob Ford, as the idolater turner disenchanted-er (made up word).

The extras on the DVD are just a few commentary tracks by people you don’t care about. I care about them, but you won’t.

Randy Otteson
For more reviews from Randy, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.