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Movie Review: 'The Lone Ranger'

The Lone Ranger

Starring Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Rated PG-13

Remember when it was announced that Disney was making a movie based on their Pirates of the Caribbean ride?  How many laughed at that idea and thought the people at Disney had lost their minds? And how many scratched their heads in disbelief that Johnny Depp had signed on for the movie?   Well, Disney, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski proved us wrong; making a movie that was what some might consider the perfect summer movie.   It was also the movie that put Depp on the path to making the big extravagant films we are now so accustomed to him making, for better and for worse.   The last word in that last sentence leads me to The Lone Ranger with Depp playing sidekick Tonto to Armie Hammer’s John Reid, aka The Lone Ranger.  This idea, when it was announced, didn’t seem like the bad idea that POTC initially was but I don’t think anyone will be calling this mess the perfect summer movie. 

The Lone Ranger for all its potential can’t find which fork in the road to take.   It feels like the movie took a tone that Disney wanted, took one that Bruckheimer wanted and then threw in the one that director Verbinski wanted and mashed them together so as to not piss off any of the major parties.  There are very few, if any, filmmakers who can pull off making a bipolar movie without it being a bipolar movie.  Vebinski isn’t one of those guys and the Lone Ranger is the victim in a crime that could’ve been prevented.    But don’t worry Johnny Depp fans, his turn as Tonto is one of the saving graces of this movie, even when it’s very apparent he’s a little uninspired with the material that’s been given to him.  So is there an upside to The Lone Ranger… it’s at least better than On Stranger Tides.  But that’s not really saying much.

The story is an origin story, showing us how John Reid (Armie Hammer) came to be The Lone Ranger.  Reid, a lawyer from the East coast, is on his way to Colby Texas to become the local law counsel there.  Colby Texas is putting itself on the map, building a rail way to become a bridge to the west.  At the same time, on the same train, sits outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) is on his was to Colby to face punishment for the crimes that he committed.  Cavendish, thanks to his gang, escapes.  Reid’s brother Dan (James Badge Dale), a local Texas Ranger deputizes John and goes after Cavendish.  Surprisingly this doesn’t end well.  Oh where does Tonto play a role in all this?  Well, he has his own beef to settle with Cavendish and after reluctantly saving Reid, the two join together to take down not only Cavendish but what turns out to be the corrupt underbelly of a local rail tycoon Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson). 

As I mentioned before, where The Lone Ranger loses it’s audience is the indecision of what The Lone Ranger wants to be….well that and it’s 2 & ½ hour running time, but I’ll get to that in a bit. The movie is at times dark, ugly, self deprecating, violent, comedic and family oriented.  It’s almost dizzying at times to try and figure out why the movie would so blatantly take the turns that it does.  The movie, when it turns into what made Pirates of the Caribbean so good; you wonder why someone didn’t see that this was the tone the movie needed to take.  But then it shifts to a scene where someone gets their heart taken out and eaten then shifts into a movie that almost seems like a very self-aware tongue-in-cheek parody of the original Lone Ranger TV show. 

The movie is also way too long, buy about an hour.   And maybe some of these tone issues could’ve been solved by cutting out a good chunk of the middle section of the movie and simplifying a plot that gets too ambitious.  Having Cavendish as your villain is fine.  Having him with Cole and Cole’s subplot with not only the railroad, but his greed and power trip, his desire to be with Dan’s widowed wife Rebecca (Ruth Wilson) who just so happens to be in love with John; for a movie like this, it doesn’t need to overcomplicate itself, because in doing so, takes away from not only developing your characters, but also developing the relationship between Tonto and Reid.  This is an origin story guys and you totally missed the boat on that.

I wouldn’t waste my time on the Lone Ranger, even for the most hardcore Depp fans.  There is no greater tragedy for movie fans then walking out of a movie instantly thinking how you will never get those 2 and ½ hours back.  Let this Lone Ranger be just that, alone. 

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