Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Disney’s $250 million production of THE LONE RANGER, likely the oldest hero-property in America, is a wacky-fun, somewhat-overstuffed attempt at an epic Old West film. It is heavy on plot, light on character, full of good intentions, and can be enjoyed for as long as patience and tolerance can hold out.
Native American spirit-walker Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the tale of John Reid (Armie Hammer), who as the last of a gunned-down group of Texas Rangers, dons a mask and seeks justice for his slain brother. As the Lone Ranger, Reid and Tonto together hunt down the outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), who is dealing with railroad-baron Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson).

THE LONE RANGER sets itself up as a simple vengeance tale, as Reid and Tonto both look for justice against the same men for their own reasons. Such simplicity is not nearly enough for director Gore Verbinski, who beefs up the film with many subplots…ranging from various Old West themes such as the silver-rush, the expansion of the American railroad, the annihilation of the Native Indian, and the spiritual side of the vast frontier. The film is saturated is Old West lore, and Verbinski never thinks twice about stuffing in as much as he possibly can.
Much like a lost Ranger without a horse in the desert, the film begins to wander around aimlessly with the vast amount of plot. Bloated is the first word that comes to mind, as the film often feels like it could have benefitted from some liberal cutting. All that is going on takes attention away from the title character, and he is often lost amidst everything that comes down the mountain of script.

The amount of plot nearly derails the film, but only nearly because there is still a lot to enjoy in THE LONE RANGER. Verbinski keeps the humor light, the action fun, the cinematography stunningly gorgeous, and an classic Old West vibe at all times. Not only is the film saturated in Old West legend, but also in the lore of the genre itself. Dozens of classic Old West films can be seen in one form or another here; not borrowed as much as inspired and there is never a moment where the screen is devoid of something beautiful. Hans Zimmer’s score is just right and serves the film well.
Verbinski also makes a unique choice of the film being told through an extended flashback through Tonto’s eyes. It makes for a fresh approach to the material, and for the most part it works. Since THE LONE RANGER is ultimately an origin tale, Tonto and Reid have to go through a lot of lumps before they eventually get to the friendship that audiences are so familiar with. It takes them a long time to get there, but the wait is eventually worth it.

Acting is a mixed bag. Armie Hammer looks like a good Lone Ranger with his square-jaw and blocked-off stature, and feels right at home with the white hat and black mask. Hammer unfortunately still shows the acting chops of someone snagged off the street with a butterfly net; he never goes very deep and is always one-dimensional. Johnny Depp’s role is more physical than anything else, as his dialogue is always very simple broken English. He is fun in the role, and every time he is on-screen something witty, fun, or bizarre can be expected to happen. William Fichtner turns in a great role as the Big Bad, and rest of the cast including Tom Wilkinson, Helena Bonham Carter, James Badge Dale, and Barry Pepper are all in great form.
The last twenty minutes consist of a thrilling, rip-roaring, swashbuckling, side-splitting chase scene involving two trains and a soaring rendition of the classic William Tell Overture. It is such a blast to watch and experience that the vast amount of plot taken to get there is nearly forgotten, and audiences with enough patience will certainly be rewarded. THE LONE RANGER is far from perfect, but worth the ride.


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