Star Sizzles, Power Fizzles

In 'Jesse James,' Brad Pitt gets tangled up in the outlaw's celebrity -- and his own

Review C

October 12, 2007|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

Early on, local audiences may feel the thrill of anticipation when they hear the narrator of this sprawling Western say, "Alexander Frank James was in Baltimore with his wife and child when he read the news about the assassination of Jesse James." But even though Sam Shepard lends his cryptic, windbeaten visage and a fine, dry delivery to Frank James (Jesse's brother), he never enters the picture again after we hear those words.

The line occurs on Page 348 of Ron Hansen's engrossing novel. Its forced appearance near the movie's start suggests that the writer-director, Andrew Dominik, tackled a book packed with colorful phrases and incidents and had no better idea of what to do with them than to shuffle them like cards.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Warner Bros.) Starring Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck. Directed by Andrew Dominik. Rated R. Time 153 minutes.

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