The Lone Ranger (2013)

two and a half

After reading numerous negative reviews for Disney’s “The Lone Ranger,” and upon entering the theater, I had the feeling as if I was rooting for an underdog. Throughout the boisterous, and sometimes lengthy 149 minutes, I kept waiting for the moment when things would go completely downhill… For others, perhaps that moment was five minutes into the film as soon as they made the connection that Johnny Depp plays a convincing aged Comanche indian. For myself, and crucify me here and now if you will, that moment never came. If anything, I would have cut Helena Bonham Carter’s pointless role of Red Harrington, a mistress living in an old western whorehouse.

Director Gore Verbinski (of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame) proves that you can’t keep a good man down. Despite a 2011 setback due to financing and a script that involved the supernatural and werewolves, Verbinski breathed new life into the classic tale of The Lone Ranger and his trusty “Apache” indian friend, Tonto. Some of the older audiences may remember the radio series, or perhaps the old Saturday morning television show, starring Clayton Moore. My only recollection is of watching a few episodes from an old VHS tape in a blue box that my grandmother had when I was young. I was absolutely stunned by the ranger’s tenacity, his mighty steed, and his silver bullets.

Verbinski channels the energy and excitement of the old series, and brings it to the big screen, utilizing the same backstory of Armie Hammer’s character John Reid (The Lone Ranger). John is a lawyer of sorts who wears a nice suit and rides a train carrying both Depp’s Tonto, and the outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). There is a train robbery, and after Tonto and John meet for the first time, Cavendish escapes with a posse. We meet John’s brother, Dan Reid (James Badge Dale), a lawman who experiences fighting crime on foot, which he claims is more real than John’s line of work. We are introduced to two minimally important characters in the form of Dan’s wife, Rebecca (Ruth Wilson), and his son, Danny (Bryant Price). John and Dan go after Butch, people are shot (it’s a western for crying out loud), plus cannibalism, etc. I won’t spoil much of the plot here. Besides, it’s not an incredibly complex one anyway.

Depp is in top form here. I read a reviewer who proclaimed from the top of the rooftops that ‘Depp is a failure’ now that all of his roles are mainstream, instead of his early indie days. I beg to differ, and I would love to argue exactly the opposite. Overlooking the massive flop “Dark Shadows,” Depp plays a very funny Tonto. There is smart writing at work here, and Depp puts it to good use. In some ways, “The Lone Ranger” is Tonto’s film. There is a lot of back story as to why Tonto hunts down Cavendish, despite it being a very confusing story.

Tonto speaks with the spirits.

Tonto speaks with the spirits.

I haven’t seen a film with Hammer before, so there seems to be a first time for everything I suppose. He’s a bit awkward, but not forced. I think it comes together well for him. Not quite the beefcake Orlando Bloom was in “Pirates,” but he’s smart and humorous.

I will give this away: “The Lone Ranger” is a western vista paradise filled with clichés and plenty of moments that remind us of a certain voyage across the Caribbean. Hans Zimmer owes some of his work on the score to Ennio Morricone. The beautiful western vistas are owed to the old western work of classic greats like Sergio Leone and John Ford. As a more recent callback, I couldn’t help but think of last December’s “Django Unchained.” Are westerns making some sort of unprecedented comeback? The subtle throwbacks to great films like “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” are extremely fun for audience members who catch the references. Buster Keaton in “The General” anyone?

Mark my words, this is no Oscar-worthy film, but please don’t brush it off because of some naysayers on the internet. While a bit lengthy, “The Lone Ranger” does succeed at entertaining it’s audience. I was laughing through most of the film, and it wasn’t just at Depp’s scene stealing performance. Other characters are sometimes genuinely funny, although the vast majority of on-screen fun comes from Hammer and Depp’s chemistry as a team.

Verbinski treads in the shallow water of social commentary on America’s mistreatment of Native Americans. It feels forced. It comes off as a surprise. I wasn’t sure how to take it, especially since it seemed to be used only as a plot device to provide a means for our heroes to get to safety.

I should also mention the runtime. It is a bit long. It’s entertaining, but long. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t usually have a problem with longer movies, but this should have been shorter.

So why so much negativity on something done reasonably well? I would like to describe a phenomena in brief. You have seen movies with your friends before and perhaps not all of your friends are as outspoken as others. That one guy gets out of the movie and says something to the effect of, “Wow, that was a trash movie. I feel like my eyes are bleeding. Can someone pay for brain surgery so that I can have the memories of the last two hours of my life erased?” We all hate this guy, but perhaps another friend agrees on some of his points. “Yeah, the… what was it called? Boomcam? Oh. The jib? Yeah, the jib wasn’t good.” Before you know it, the negative points are picked out, and even if you did kind of enjoy the flick, you start wondering if it was much worse than you thought.

I would like to think that’s what has happened here. It’s sad, but true. I think a group of critics were a bit too harsh, and now (at the time of this writing) “The Lone Ranger” sits at a pathetic 24%.

But please don’t take my word for it. Be an educated movie goer. Stop listening to all the negative hype. Make your own opinion, and stop believing every critic you read (only Roger Ebert). “The Lone Ranger” was produced to entertain, and in my opinion, it does just that.

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