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Calamity Jane (2024) Review

Martha Jane Canary, better known as Calamity Jane, was probably the best known of the Old West’s female gunslingers. Her legend is also inexorably linked to that of Wild Bill Hickok, although actual facts supporting that connection, and indeed many of their exploits, are a bit ambiguous to say the least.

In this telling of the tale, director Terry Miles (Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story, Even Lambs Have Teeth) and writers Leon Langford and Collin Watts who previously co-write This Land and Hot Seat begin with Jane (Emily Bett Rickards, Arrow, The Flash) helping Sheriff Mason (Tim Rozon, Terror Train, End of the Line) fight off a gang of thieves. Mason shows his gratitude by delivering her to the Deadwood jailhouse anyway.

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And that’s where she is when she hears that Wild Bill (Stephen Amell, The Arrow, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows) has been killed in a card game. This is really bad timing, as he’s just bought a plot of land for them to marry and settle down on. Taking advantage of a fellow inmate’s escape attempt, Jane gets loose and sets out for revenge.

As with most westerns involving historical figures, Calamity Jane pays no attention to history, or even to folklore. At the time of his death, Jane was in prison, but she didn’t escape, let alone go on a killing spree. And Hickok was married to Agnes Thatcher Lake, a marriage Jane claimed to have facilitated by divorcing him. No record of her marriage to him has been found, however.

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The trailer referred to Calamity Jane as “A Tubi Film” and that’s what it feels like, a Tubi Original given a theatrical release for reason or reasons unknown. It’s an extremely slow and talky film, with much of the time taken up by Jane telling everyone she sees that she’s going to kill Jack McCall and them telling her not to do it, just let the hangman take care of him.

Even with a plot that sees Jane pursuing McCall and the gang he’s riding with while Mason and his posse, all two of them, pursue her and McCall, very little happens. And when it does, it tends to be over quickly and without much excitement. The only exception is a catfight between Jane and the psychotic Abigail (Priscilla Faia, Rookie Blue, The Eleventh Victim) in the film’s final minutes.

As for the much hyped reuniting of Arrow costars Rickards and Amell, that’s something else that will disappoint viewers. They have two short scenes together, one of which is a hallucination, that add up to maybe five minutes. Amell has one other scene and maybe ten minutes screen time total. It’s as underwhelming as the rest of the film and

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If they had trimmed some of the pointless chatter and put more effort into the gunfights, Calamity Jane might have had a chance. Instead, what could have been a decent female fronted western ends up becoming a disappointing affair that slings more leaden dialogue than lead bullets on its way to a resolution that’s supposed to be ironic but just ends up being stupid. And then adds insult to injury with an attempt at a witty final scene.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on them, however, the filmmakers did at least get the most important thing right, Calamity Jane is indeed a calamity.

Calamity Jane is currently in theatres and on Digital Platforms via Samuel Goldwyn Films. A DVD release is scheduled for some time in April. That may also be when it lands on Tubi, which is where it should have gone directly to.

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