The Lone Ranger is a Wild, Wild Mess
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2013 3 Jul
DVD Release Date: December 17, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: July 3, 2013
Rating: PG-13 (sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material)
Run Time: 149 min.
Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichter, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, Bryant Prince, Barry Pepper, Mason Elston Cook, James Badge Deal
First, the good news. The final 30 minutes of The Lone Ranger, a project that reportedly cost $250 million to make and stars Johnny Depp (Dark Shadows) and Armie Hammer (The Social Network), are nothing short of spectacular. Clever, well-paced and thoroughly exciting (the William Tell Overture provides the perfect musical backdrop, naturally), this last half-hour is exactly what one wants a summer movie to be.
Trouble is, the audience has to sit through nearly two hours of utter tedium to get there. Although Depp is playing another one of his lovable oddballs (like Jack Sparrow, his Tonto is equally loopy) and his Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbiniski is at the helm, there's nothing about The Lone Ranger that suggests another wildly successful franchise. If anything, this movie seems to be suffering from a major identity crisis.
Never funny enough to be a comedy, and way, way too slow and violent (see Cautions below) for a family-friendly western, The Lone Ranger takes the viewer down a long, dusty road to nowhere interesting—save for those inspired final moments.
The problem is neither a lack of opulence nor action. Befitting a movie that costs this much, the set pieces are appropriately lavish. And the shoot-em-up sequences could fill three films, which isn't all that surprising since Verbinski never knew when to stop with the Pirates movies, either.
But as fantastic as everything looks, the aggressive sensory attack just loads down The Lone Ranger's already leaden storyline and unremarkable performances. Even Depp himself seems a little bit bored with what's happening (or oftentimes, not happening), which is probably why he resorts to recycling so many of his old tricks.
And while it's called The Lone Ranger, make no mistake, this is Tonto's story. Sure, it starts off with the masked man whose real name is John Reid (Hammer). He's a cocky lawyer who believes that fights should be settled by due process rather than with guns, but his philosophy changes dramatically after his older brother Dan (James Badge Dale, World War Z) and the rest of the Texas Rangers are wiped out by Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner, Phantom), an outlaw with a literal thirst for blood.
Knowing he can't fight alone, John eventually teams up with the offbeat Comanche spirit warrior Tonto, even though they didn't exactly hit it off on their train ride earlier. But since Tonto has a deeply personal reason for pursuing Cavendish - avenging the repulsive acts he's committed against Tonto's people - one would assume they'd make a pretty formidable team.
But as much as Depp and Hammer shamelessly mug for the camera, they just don’t have much chemistry as a dynamic duo. First off, the Lone Ranger, the supposed hero, rarely treats Tonto with respect and comes off like a jerk for most of the film. Secondly, while Hammer is certainly attractive enough to fit the Hollywood leading man mold, he simply looks like he stumbled on to the wrong movie set here. When paired with Depp, who naturally commands every scene he's in, Hammer is clearly outmatched and comes off less than convincing. He's essentially a frat boy in a western—and that doesn’t work.
Speaking of things less-than-convincing, that's pretty much the perfect way to sum up the script. With tonal shifts as wild and unpredictable as a rollercoaster ride, random storylines that really never go anywhere and little actual heart to keep someone invested an emotional level, what's really the point? I mean, even a scene-stealer like Helena Bonham Carter (Les Misérables) is thoroughly wasted as a trashy madam without a single purpose.
Practically everything about this movie is a head-scratcher in the end. The Lone Ranger is nothing more than a wild, wild mess—and a rather curious choice to bear the Disney name. We waited so long for this legendary hero of television and radio to come to the silver screen for this?
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking depicted. A woman is drugged by a man hoping to make her more receptive to his inappropriate advances.
- Language/Profanity: Dam- and hel- are both used a handful of times. Pis- is used once, and God’s name is taken in vain on several occasions, most commonly as an exclamation. There’s also instances of rude scatological humor.
- Sex/Nudity: No actual sex or nudity, but Tonto is a regular visitor to Red’s, a whorehouse in Colby that’s run by a woman with a leg made out of ivory. At one point, she hikes her dress up considerably for a man who wants to get a better look at that leg. Not surprisingly, the women inside sport a lot of cleavage and less-than-modest fashion. Since Rebecca’s husband Dan works out of town quite a bit, one man takes this an opportunity to shower her with gifts and unwanted affection. A man proclaims his love for wearing women’s clothes.
- Violence: There’s a high body count thanks to gunfire (some at very close range), explosions and careful aim of bow and arrow. The majority is largely bloodless, but there are definitely exceptions (like a scene where a man is shot in the leg, and we see him still writhing in pain on the floor) that would definitely be scary for children. A log smashes into the heads of two men. Trains crash and collide, one even plunges off a dilapidated bridge (a man is shown struggling underwater). Perhaps, the most disturbing violence of all is Cavendish’s cannibalistic tendencies. After hearing stories about him cutting out legs, feet and eyes for his culinary pleasure, we see him live out his strange obsession. Cavendish stabs Dan in the stomach (mind you, he’s still alive and coughing up blood after a gun wound), plucks out his heart and takes a big bite. Later on when a man cuts his face while shaving, Cavendish licks the razor.
Christa Banister is an author and full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
Publication date: June 28, 2013