Review: The Lone Ranger
A lawman in the 19th century Wild West seeking revenge for the death of his brother teams up with a seemingly wise native with a vengeful goal of his own. The two set out on quest to kill a spirited villain in explosive and exciting fashion.
Who’s in it?
Johnny Depp wears make up and talks to animals as Tonto, while Armie Hammer, who needs to be in many more movies right now, is the titular Lone Ranger. Helena Bonham Carter, Barry Pepper, Tom Wilkinson, and William Fichtner also play key roles.
For better or worse – and its mostly better – the latest product from the team of Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp is simply The Pirates of the Caribbean set in the wild west. Depp continues to be an eccentric, make-up wearing fellow that is either really wise or exceedingly stupid, or probably both. There is too the same sort of honest, noble lead man who wishes to do right but finds himself in and out of trouble due to Depp’s character. And then there is the long drawn out narrative, a nasty villain, and curiously-choreographed action sequences that are both thrilling and silly.
Why The Lone Ranger succeeds more than it fails however, is the conceit of the narrative. The film opens with a young boy in the 1920’s wandering into a museum that features a display of ‘The Noble Savage.’ It shows an elderly, statuesque figure with a painted face, but the boy’s intent gaze stirs the man. It is an elderly Tonto, and he proceeds to tell the boy a story about his escapades with the Lone Ranger, whose ensemble the child is sporting.
Thus, when the movie ventures into the ridiculous, when it skips over some plot points, and when it defies logic (so very often), the boy will interrupt, accusing the storyteller of just that. It’s a clever way of trying to have things both ways, and in this case it actually works.
After all, despite this film’s attempt and (that of so many others) to be dark and scary, The Lone Ranger is an entertaining thrill ride of a lark, a lengthy piece of whimsy that mistakenly gets too serious at times, but overall maintains a light-hearted tone that is driven by mysticism and storytelling.
It starts rather simply, though the characters and tangents are piled on later. Lawman and person of the book John Reid inadvertently happens upon an escape by the nefarious and bloodthirsty Butch Cavendish (a sinister Fichtner). He too meets an imprisoned Tonto, and while the two survive an explosive train ride (one of many), Cavendish is freed. Reid joins his brother and other Texas Rangers to hunt the criminal, but they are set upon, leaving but a sole survivor – sort of.
So begins a quest of revenge, one that deals with silver and trains, and power and politics, unrequited love with a widow, and the loyalty of a one-legged cabaret owner (Bonham Carter). Most surprisingly and distressingly, though, the issue of land between the natives and the settlers and their relationship comes to the forefront. While Verbinski often takes things dark in his action-thrillers, being no stranger to blood and death, his strange decision to introduce some very sobering scenes of betrayal and massacre is off-putting and ill-fitting.
Aside from that – and it’s a big aside at one unnerving point in the film, Verbinski’s summer offering is a welcome piece of charm and wit, more adventure than action, and more able to keep your attention than most. When the familiar sounds of the William Tell Overture begin, an exhilarating ending awaits.
Should You See It?
Do it, and accept there is a lengthy middle section during which you can get up and stretch your legs.
Depp has some great lines, but they’re the best when he is talking to or about his equine friend, who makes frequent appearances. “Something very wrong with that horse.”