Frank and Jessie, starring Rob Lowe and Bill Paxton, DVD version
Four out of five stars
There is a great deal of poetic license about the outlaw gang led by Jesse and Frank James in this movie. Born out of the defeat of the south in the American Civil War, the members of the James gang were initially considered heroes by those that were sympathetic to the southern cause. Their exploits were thought of as a victorious continuation of the war and even people that were not favorable to the Confederacy were thrilled to read of their exploits and considered them folk heroes.
While the performances of the lead players are good, they are sometimes not strong and at times the action is skewed in favor of the James gang. They shoot very straight while their opponents do not. There are tender moments when the James brothers are family men with their wives and children.
Allen Pinkerton is portrayed as a devious, unprincipled man whose primary goal is to preserve his reputation as well as that of his agency. An unusual point is when there is an outdoor dance party and the blacks are portrayed as partying right along with the whites and not as servants. That is an unusual scene for former soldiers on the side of the Confederacy.
This is not a great western movie, but it is a good one. There are allusions to their folk hero status but not enough. The movie would have been stronger if there had been more frames devoted to how the James gang was favorably depicted in the press and by the public.