movie film review | chris tookey

Lone Ranger

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  Lone Ranger Review
Tookey's Rating
1 /10
Average Rating
3.61 /10
Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Helena Bonham Carter
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Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Written by: Terry Rossio, Ted Elliott, Justin Haythe

Released: 2013
Origin: US
Length: 149

Hollywood goes tonto.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Johnny Depp (pictured right) spends this movie hiding behind white face paint. His co-star Armie Hammer (left) wears a mask. You canít blame them. If Iíd had anything to do with it, Iíd be wearing a balaclava helmet and writing under an assumed name.

The production team that brought you Pirates of the Caribbean 1-4 has created Ė literally - a train wreck of gargantuan proportions. Last year, Disney made John Carter, the biggest loss-maker of all time. With this, they have surpassed themselves.

The movie resurrects a mythic gunslinger of the Old West but does it only to poke fun at how square and stupid he is. Armie Hammer, who played twins in The Social Network, looks lost and unhappy in his first leading role, and is upstaged in every scene by Johnny Depp as Tonto, his Native American sidekick.

ďHow could this be worse?Ē moans the Lone Ranger at one point. Itís a darn good question. I suppose it might have been in 3D. And Tonto might have been played by Vince Vaughn.

Depp unwisely plays the whole thing with a dead bird on his head. Itís supposedly a crow but might as well be a seriously undernourished, blacked-up turkey. Itís not a good look, but this is not a good film.

The Lone Ranger is yet another origins story, showing how pacifist, gun-hating lawyer John Reid travels out west to bring human rights and civilisation, just like James Stewart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. But Reidís brother is murdered, and he swears vengeance, along with his new ally Tonto. The abominable crow-man makes Reidís mask for him, and the Lone Ranger goes on the rampage as a sharp-shooting vigilante, spoiling the nefarious schemes of an unprincipled railroad boss (Tom Wilkinson).

The plot-holes are gaping, and the film-makersí contempt for logic, narrative and coherent characterisation is manifest. Even more fatally, the film canít decide how seriously to take its story, or whether it wants us to care. So Tonto mourns the genocide of his tribe, twice.

But to counteract that heavy stuff Ė sometimes in the same scene - you get Tonto and the Lone Ranger mugging for slapstick laughs. At one point, the hero is dragged through horse manure, and it becomes an unintended metaphor for the movie. So are the many unfunny scenes where Tonto tries to feed grain to that dead bird on his head.

Director Gore Verbinski is evidently a film buff, for he pays homage in his framing device to Little Big Man, in the railway sequences to Buster Keatonís The General, and in his use of Utahís Monument Valley to the westerns of John Ford.

But the movie references are so ancient that they will fly over the heads of most moviegoers. And itís never a good idea to remind critics of films vastly superior to this one.

Depp can be a terrific comic actor. When heís desperate, however, he tends to pull faces and do silly walks. He isnít funny. Heís exhausting.

Among other good actors slumming are William Fichtner as a cannibalistic bad guy who belongs in a darker film, and our own Helena Bonham Carter as a madam with a false leg containing a gun, when mostly she just needed a reason to be in the movie.

Flippancy abounds, but there are no good jokes. The pace is lethargic. The framing device, set in 1933, is unnecessary, intrusive and should have been junked.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has never been renowned for good taste, but this is his crudest effort yet. Thus we have the Lone Ranger witnessing his brother having his heart cut out and eaten, with revoltingly explicit sound effects Ė surely an event too gruesome to have attracted a 12A certificate.

The tone varies crazily from adult horror to child-pleasing fantasy (at one point, the Lone Rangerís horse, Silver, conveniently levitates). If you take small children to this, bear in mind that afterwards you may be asked awkward questions about genocide, prostitution, cross-dressing and cannibalism.

All the action set-pieces are monotonous, overblown and soulless. Even the most spectacular bit, the blowing up of a railway bridge, was done better in - of all movies Ė Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

For fans of the original radio and TV series, the film only comes to life after two hours, when Reid stops being a drip and embraces his destiny as the Lone Ranger. And the first time it achieves any uplift is in the final fifteen minutes, when we are treated to a burst of its famous theme, Rossiniís William Tell Overture.

Itís much too little, two hours too late.

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