There's a saying about not letting the truth get in the way of a good story, and I think that might have been the film maker's approach here. The picture is riddled with inaccuracies throughout, and if the story had left out the names of Frank and Jesse James it might have been more serviceable as an entertaining Western. I'm not necessarily a stickler for one hundred percent accuracy in historical movies, but this one fell short by a long shot.
The casting here is a little suspect too. I can't picture Rob Lowe as the outlaw Jesse James. But since he got the nod, I thought he should have exhibited some of the maniacal excess that Emilio Estevez showed in portraying Billy the Kid in the 'Young Guns' films. The 'real' James/Younger Gang was formed by Frank James and Cole Younger, but it was the much younger Jesse who rose to prominence because of his brash and outspoken style. The inclusion of Randy Travis here as Cole wasn't too bad, but I had to wonder how much of his casting was dependent on someone singing 'Auld Lang Syne' in the latter part of the picture.
Ticking off some of the historical errors - the gang never met Allen Pinkerton during a train robbery, Jesse's wife Zee never killed anyone, it wasn't Jesse's idea to head for Northfield, Minnesota, and Cole Younger didn't shoot brother Bob while on the run. Maybe there will never be a film that's totally accurate about the James/Younger Gang, but a couple of them get close - "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and "The Long Riders" are both pretty good, and the earlier film has that very cool horse jump through the storefront windows during the Northfield bank raid (which didn't actually happen, but is more believable than most of this picture).
As if to add insult to injury, I happened to freeze the frames of the newspaper headlines about the James Gang exploits during the movie, and the underlying text had nothing to do with such captions as 'James Gang Robs Train' and 'Charlie Ford Captured'.
But probably the biggest problem I had was in the depiction of Jesse's murder by the Fords. It appeared that Jesse was in some way sacrificing himself with his outstretched arms in supplication, as if to atone for his ruthless outlaw life. The implication of self directed suicide by leaving his gun on the table was just too blatant, right after watching his wife and young son agonize over their next move as a family. A movie by any other name would have been more satisfying.
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