A film much like its title: stubbornly cumbersome, admirable in its ambition, but ultimately, could’ve benefited from some judicious trimming. At 160-minutes, it’s a stab at a Terrence Malick-esque existential western, an extended funeral dirge set against a bitter 19th-century winter captured in long, expansive takes.

It’s a tale about Jesse James (Brad Pitt), the world’s most famous bandit, a kind of folk hero and a hunted man at the end of his days. Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) is a kind of obsessive fan, a fragile psyche, desperate for attention.

Nominated for an Oscar, Affleck nails the performance as a pathetic obsessive with delusions of grandeur, bringing to mind the likes of Mark David Chapman.

The film was delayed for a year as writer/director Andrew Dominik (Chopper) and producer Pitt battled the studio over the film’s length. Auteur theory sacrilege aside, I would’ve preferred seeing the studio’s cut.

As it stands, the film is a mess, though there is a great film somewhere in there. It looks beautiful and is populated by interesting characters.

Dominik is also successful in establishing a haunting, elegiac tone. Narration-wise, however, there are crucial scenes missing and superfluous others included that add up to little or only serve to muddle the story.

One gets the impression that Dominik is not quite ready for the scope of the film, that it got away from him. Perhaps in the future, Dominik will inherit Malick’s crown, but for now, he should find a skilled editor and collaborator for his next script.

Grade: B The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is currently available.