Wednesday, July 3

REVIEW: The Lone Ranger

Directed by Gore Verbinski
2013 Comedy Western
2 hours 29 minutes
From Walt Disney Pictures

Johnny Depp
Armie Hammer
Tom Wilkinson
William Fichtner
Ruth Wilson
Helena Bonham Carter
Barry Pepper
Mason Elston Cook

While you were at work and doing important things, I had nothing to do so I found myself in the first showing on the first day of The Long Ranger.  Oh, did I say long?  With good reason.  I don't think the actual winning of the entire west took this long. 

I suppose one could not serve up The Lone Ranger very well in today's climate by just playing it straight.  Perhaps no one would go.  And besides, what does Johnny Depp know about playing it straight?  To call this film campy and quirky is an understatement and truth be told, it doesn't particularly feel like The Lone Ranger  much at all.  I found it, let's say, a mixture of westerns like Cat Ballou, Blazing Saddles and even a bit of the latest version of 3:10 to Yuma.  The title could easily have been called Pirates of the Pecos.  Silly, silly, silly.  And it's not that I didn't have a good half dozen laughs but still, silly rules.

The truth is I thought it would be much worse.  Why go at all then, you may say.  Well, c'mon now, it is a western, I love Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer ain't too shabby to look at and I am a fan of those rough 'n tumble stunts.  But this film has a troubled past.  A crew member accidentally drowned, it had a budget that soared out of control, ultimately coming in at an estimated $250,000,000, and it's been sitting on some honcho's desk for some time without a release date.  None of that exactly spells movie magic.  But it still didn't come out as a dog, just nothing special.

The general zaniness of it all kind of did a smear job on our hero's quest for justice.  His nobility was hard to find and for my tastes, the lone one and Tonto didn't bond so well.  Maybe the actors did, but the characters were always pretty much at odds with Tonto pulling most of the strings.  Like I said, it just didn't feel like The Lone Ranger.  Hell, Pardner, I didn't even get any special affection for the damned horse.

The plot of the film is just not worth our time.  It doesn't matter.  We open with some history on John Reid, who became the lone ranger when he becomes the sole survivor of an ambush.  But from then on, it's a so-so plot that involves one hell of a lot of action with trains... in them, on top of them, underneath them, around them, unhitching them, shooting them up, sending them to the great train graveyard.  In fact, let me say it here... if you love trains, you will be sucked into this film and wonder what is wrong with me to give it only two stars.

Some great news is that it did seem to be an homage of sorts to director John Ford (a subject of a past posting here) with the stunning locations in Monument Valley.  The film even begins with the singing of We Shall Gather at the River which Ford used in a number of his legendary westerns.  The odd thing, however, is that the locale was supposed to be Texas.

I was impressed how old westish this cast looked, particularly the atmospheric folks.  Everyone was scruffy and dirty, perfectly made up, coiffed and costumed.  The cast was certainly put through its paces with so much physical work.  The special effects were fabulous.

Gore Verbinski knows a thing or two about directing big, expensive movies having helmed some Pirates of the Caribbeans, although he must have been under some fire as this production's costs shot up.  The Lone Ranger certainly has the look of a big and splashy Verbinski picture.

Depp was terrific as Tonto but then I always think he is terrific. He never phones in a performance to be sure. But let's distinguish between the actor's acting chops and the silliness of Tonto, the character. Hammer was also good, earnest, always looking to convey that sense of justice, but in the end he was more of a second banana to the star. 

Johnny, a side note to you before closing.  Years ago when Gregory Peck made Roman Holiday, he had in his contract that he would be solely-billed above the title.  Smart as a tac and the gentleman he was, he knew the film was really about Audrey Hepburn's character and he insisted she be billed above the title with him.  You couldn't have done the same?  Didn't Armie Hammer as the title character deserve to be above the title with you?  He had as much screen time as you did.  Was he really co-starring?  Dude!  I'm just sayin'.

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