Runtime: 2 HR 29 MIN
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writers: Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, James Badge Dale, Bryant Prince, Barry Pepper, Leon Rippy, Stephen Root
The Lone Ranger is celebrating his 80th anniversary this year; his popularity has seen some meteoric highs and its fair share of lows as the character, his friend Tonto and his horse Silver have faded into obscurity. Western enthusiasts have kept the legend alive and now thanks in large part to Johnny Depp the Lone Ranger is about to ride again. The question is- will audiences care?
District Attorney and ex-Texas Ranger John Reid (Armie Hammer) forms an unlikely partnership with a Tonto (Johnny Depp), a Comanche Indian to bring a dangerous group of criminals to justice. During their investigation they discover a common foe tied to the railroad that is quickly expanding throughout the west.
The Lone Ranger wasn’t on TV much when I was kid and when westerns were making waves they were more in the vein of Lonesome Dove or Dances with Wolves. Going into 2013’s Lone Ranger I only knew the basics- “superhero” cowboy that wears a mask, Native American sidekick named Tonto and a white horse named Silver… that’s it. I don’t imagine that being an uncommon amount of knowledge going into this film but there are probably a lot of kids that don’t know The Lone Ranger from Roy Rogers. That could be a big problem for a very risky and expensive western especially after 2012’s sci-fi western John Carter (from Mars) under performed at the box office.
Surprisingly there’s a lot to like about The Lone Ranger but it does have its faults… a lot of them. First off, the cast is enjoyable with several memorable performances. Armie Hammer finds the right balance humanity and hero that walks the very fine line between caricature and sincerity. The character of Tonto, which could have been a racially insensitive mess, was actually a highlight of the film. Depp’s performance is reminiscent of his role in the original Pirates of the Caribbean where’s he’s the film’s biggest star but not necessarily the film’s focus. That dynamic keeps Depp’s comedic styling’s from overpowering the other performances.
William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson and Barry Pepper make the most of their three tiered villainous roles. All are effective if despite being one dimensional but it all feels a bit crowded and superfluous. Speaking of superfluous, Helena Bonham Carter and Ruth Wilson fill the dull as dishwater supporting female roles. Carter’s role doesn’t amount to much more than a half thought out cameo that would seem more fitting in a prequel to Planet Terror then a Disney western. Similarly Ruth Wilson’s role as the ‘object’ of several men’s desires isn’t as well thought out as it could have been with her acting talents being sadly wasted. On the BBC produced Luther she’s outstanding; both sinister and beautiful, but here she’s your standard damsel in distress that is given very little to do aside from look worried.
The western adventure tone of The Lone Ranger mostly works. It never takes itself too seriously but at times doesn’t take itself seriously enough. There are several instances where the film literally and figuratively jumps off the rails. The action is exciting but almost always completely preposterous; kids will enjoy it while adults may cringe or laugh with bewildered amusement.
Unfortunately there are long droughts in the action throughout most of the film where our heroes are on dull misadventures or are otherwise missing entirely as time is wasted on the mostly unimportant B-storyline. As with a lot of films released thus far in the summer of 2013 The Lone Ranger is too long and could stand to lose about thirty minutes from its bloated running time. There are some interesting, exciting, and/or amusing moments scattered through The Lone Ranger’s landscape but it takes a winding indirect route that begins to wear thin after a while.
The Lone Ranger is leaps and bounds better than I expected it to be but that doesn’t mean I can recommend it. I’ve gone back and forth over what to rate it for days and ultimately it comes down to whether or not I’d like to see it again- I really don’t. One day, many years from now if The Lone Ranger crosses my path on cable I might (reluctantly) watch it again but even that might be a long shot.