When the James gang plans to rob a train, Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) approaches Jesse James (Brad Pitt), and attempts to join the gang aided by his brother Charley (Sam Rockwell), who is already a member. The train carries far less money than expected, and Frank James (Sam Shepard) informs Charley that this robbery will be the last one for the James brothers. Jesse returns home, bringing the Fords, Dick Liddil, and his cousin, Wood Hite (Jeremy Renner). Jesse sends everybody away, but insists that Robert stay, leading Robert to believe Jesse has come to like him. But Jesse only wants Robert to stay to assist him in moving his furniture and such into his new house. Robert obsessing over Jesse, is sent away after a few days to go to his sister's farm and join the rest.
Liddil discloses to Robert that he is in cahoots with Cummins, another member of the James gang, to capture Jesse for a considerable bounty. Meanwhile, Jesse visits another gang member, who unknowingly informs him about Cummins' plot. Jesse kills him, then leaves with Liddil to hunt down Cummins.
Meanwhile, Robert approaches the local police commissioner, disclosing he has information on Jesse James's location. To prove his association with the James gang, Robert prompts Craig to arrest Liddil. Following this successful arrest, Robert strikes a deal with the Governor of Missouri. He gets 10 days to capture and/or kill Jesse James.
Persuaded by Charley, Jesse takes Robert into the gang, and the Fords travel with Jesse to his home. Jesse plans a series of robberies with the brothers. When preparing to leave for one, Jesse reads about the arrest of Liddil in the newspaper. The Fords excuse themselves, putting on their gun holsters in the next room. Jesse, unarmed, climbs a chair to clean a wall picture. Robert shoots Jesse in the back and the Ford brothers flee the scene. They send a telegram to the State Governor to confirm Jesse's death, claiming the bounty money of $10,000.
The Ford brothers become celebrities and have a theater show in New York, re-enacting the event with Robert as himself, and Charley playing Jesse James. Guilt-stricken, Charley kills himself a few years later. A couple of years after that, Robert is murdered, while working as a saloonkeeper in Colorado.
Best part of story, including ending:
It's a bit of a long story of the murder of Jesse James, but the actors make it worthwhile.
Best scene in story:
Where Jesse realizes he is probably going to be shot and takes off his gun belt, supposedly for the neighbors.
Opinion about the main character:
He is the proverbial loser feeding off of someone elses stature and fame, in this case by shooting him in the back.