Movie review: The Lone Ranger
01:00 PM, Jul 02, 2013
The Lone Ranger might as well be Pirates of the Caribbean run aground in the dusty Wild West.
Director Gore Verbinski has choreographed a movie too similar in style and energy to his high-seas franchise films. The likeness is intensified by Johnny Depp’s turn as Tonto, who seems related to Jack Sparrow, at least in the smirking comic-relief department.
That’s not to say Depp isn’t good in the role he’s the best thing about the movie. But it’s a 2½-hour slog, with tonal inconsistencies and drawn-out action sequences. Scenes alternate between frenetic and tedious.
Armie Hammer plays the legendary hero as the alter ego of lawman John Reid. In his spotless white hat, he cuts a dashing figure. But it’s a mystery why Verbinski makes the audience wait more than two hours for the money shot and signature tune. When the masked fighter of injustice finally gallops triumphantly on his white stallion to the blaring strains of William Tell’s overture, it feels long overdue.
By this point, the audience has had to endure a bloated tale of bad guys robbing, shooting and blowing up trains and good guys trying to fend them off and forestall disaster.
The movie’s framing device kicks in early and often.
A boy wanders into a traveling carnival in 1933 and encounters a desert tableau with a sign that reads “The Noble Savage.” What appears to be a statue of an aged Native American comes to life before the incredulous lad’s eyes. The the elderly fellow recounts a yarn of derring-do set 60 years ago. The storyteller is none other than the all-but-forgotten octogenarian Tonto, played poignantly by Depp underneath effectively rendered makeup.
But then it cuts to the convoluted, overstuffed adventure. Prosecutor Reid meets Tonto when they’re shackled together on a train by gun-slinging villains. This yoking leads to an intricately choreographed escape and sets up an expectation for rollicking fun. But their ensuing escapades never come off as entertaining as that initial go-round.
Too much is thrown at the audience. A couple of villains do their darnedest to amp up the tension. There’s the deformed outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), then the slicker Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson), a railroad executive with megalomaniacal intentions. Along the way, the pair stop at a house of ill repute and meet Helena Bonham Carter as a ginger-haired madam packing heat in a wooden leg.
With his clean-cut good looks, Hammer is appealing as Reid/Lone Ranger. Avowedly anti-gun, he proclaims the law as his religion. Reid becomes the reluctant sole ranger after his ranger brother, Dan (James Badge Dale), and a team of other law enforcers are killed by Cavendish. Reid’s dreams of due process must be set aside.
The movie’s titular character is second fiddle to Depp’s slyly clever Tonto in this reboot. That would seem a reasonable storytelling device, but their bond never feels fully developed. Reid and Tonto don’t seem terribly devoted, even temporarily abandoning each other along the way. It’s as if their sense of loyalty is modified for a contemporary, self-centered era. Modern mores influence the tale in various ways: Railroad companies and militaristic types prove corrupt, and Tonto’s back story — a greedy mistake renders him a Comanche without a tribe — leads to solitary payback.
The Lone Ranger is a boisterous, relentless production, long on action but short on fun.