LONE RANGER, THE
Native American warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into The Lone Ranger - a legend of justice.
Review by Louise Keller:
With a sprinkling of ritualistic hoo-ha and a deadpan expression, Johnny Depp works his quirky magic as Tonto in this entertaining, galloping escapist Wild Wild West adventure in which the side-kick becomes the centre-kick. Just as Gore Verbinski's rollicking Pirates of the Caribbean franchise let us taste the salt spray and feel the lurch of the waves, here the smell of dust in the vast, arid desert settings almost permeates from the screen alongside the rumbling of the 19th century stream train. The plot is rich and colourful and with a hi-ho Silver, non-stop humour and fast action; there is much to enjoy in the company of the incongruous trio of an in-form Depp, a suitably dashing Armie Hammer and a scene stealing white horse with a personality all of its own.
Screenwriters Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio (Pirates) and Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road) have structured the screenplay so that it is Tonto's recollections of the action that form the exposition. The framing occurs when a peanut-munching young boy wearing a mask studiously observes the exhibit in a travelling circus in which an aged, paunchy Tonto, black bird perched on head stands immobile beside a stuffed buffalo and bear as The Noble Savage. The mechanism is utilized once too often, though. From 1933, we are thrown headlong into the adventure some 60 years earlier when Tonto and District Attorney John Reid (Hammer) meet in silver-rich country on the train to the future and are thrown, shackled and propelled together for the rest of the film.
All the elements of a grand adventure are there with a dash of romance, a deformed outlaw in William Fitchner's Butch Cavendish, a man with a taste for human flesh plus a conniving villain in Tom Wilkinson, whose outwardly respectable, two-faced Latham Cole makes our skin crawl. Helena Bonham Carter is a colourful addition as the buxom, flame-haired Madam at the House of Sin whose decorative prosthetic leg conceals surprises even for a Madam.
Hammer, with his handsome looks and clean-cut manner is perfectly cast as the lawman who likes to uphold the law by the book and not with a bullet and is a likeable presence, epitomizing decency. By contrast, Depp's Tonto is a man of action not words and Depp milks the odd-couple relationship for all its worth with his naturally eccentric manner and understated delivery. One of the elements I enjoyed about the film is its absurdities - like the shot of the horse Silver wearing the Lone Ranger's hat and the mayhem that Tonto precipitates as he pops up in unexpected places.
The stunts are huge, the vistas arresting and the final climactic charge with its daring action on the roof of two speeding trains is accompanied by a rousing, orchestral version of Rossini's William Tell Overture, galloping along at full throttle. Those who remember the TV series fondly should not compare - as the expression goes, there are different courses for different horses. Mind you, the film is overlong and could be sharply edited, but there is plenty of fun to be had with Depp, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There are two categories of audience for The Lone Ranger: those who have a very well formed fond memory of the character from TV, along with that of Tonto, and then there are the younger ones who don't. I fall into the former, which explains why I was anticipating the film with some enthusiasm. The surefire hero is very much human, very much the symbol of one person making a difference in an often indifferent world - and as a bonus, he's not enabled with superpowers. (Although the way his gunshot wound - left shoulder - and arrow wound - left shoulder - disappear could be deemed superhuman.)
He stands for what Americans liked to see in themselves when he was riding around the dramatically beautiful Texas landscape. I also like a good Western, a much neglected genre.
This film adheres to the new Hollywood fashion, in which heroes of old (TV or comic) are regurgitated and given new backgrounds to explain where they come from and why they are who they are. Unless it's done with absolute discretion, this is usually a mistake since it tends to dilute the power of their mystic appeal. It also means having to write pages of historic exposition, which extends the running time. Hence we have The Long Ranger, at two and a half hours - even longer than Man of Steel, who got the same clumsy treatment.
The story of white men scheming to get rich on silver buried in Comanche territory is simply not original or riveting enough to hold us for so long, which would have been hard anyway given the confusion over what kind of movie Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer were making. The film flits from The Plastic Ranger to The Parody Ranger to The Action Ranger, with the odd couple always along for the ride. And then there is the violence, often quite extended and brutal (eg the climactic, double train stunt), but especially so when the US Cavalry mows down a tribe of Comanche with old fashioned gatling guns. The carnage is so out of step with the film's attempt at a humorous rendition of a comedic story as to be shocking.
This film perfectly illustrates how blasť we have become about violence; the film's M rating carries the advisory 'Violence' - which is described as having moderate impact. I beg to differ.
Verbinski is also blasť about detail, with too many conveniences and 'never mind' shots which eat away at veracity.
Johnny Depp is a wonderful actor and he inhabits Tonto - but Tonto (and his bird-hat) is written and directed as a combination of fruitcake and clown, with grimaces to signal which one is on the screen. We can't take him seriously, nor John Reid, the blandly named hero who earns his moniker as The Lone Ranger in heavy handed manner. Ultimately they are both caricatures with little dignity - which rather dents the dramatic elements - as emphasised by the blazing use of the hero's famous signature tune, the William Tell Overture in the final sequence under the oversized visual spoofery of The Lone Ranger in full flight on Silver (nice horse).
Tonto is the character through whom the story is told - in a misguided flashback from the Wild West museum tent in a travelling show in 1933. The device fails in most respects (Depp's prosthetic make up is fabulous, though) for the same reason the entire screenplay fails: it has no heart. (Bad pun for those who've seen the film ...)
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LONE RANGER, THE (M)
CAST: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Helena Bonham Carter, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, James Frain, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson
PRODUCER: Jerry Bruckheimer, Gore Verbinski
DIRECTOR: Gore Verbinski
SCRIPT: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Justin Haythe
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bojan Bazelli
EDITOR: James Haygood, Craig Wood
MUSIC: Hans Zimmer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jess Gonchor
RUNNING TIME: 149 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 4, 2013
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.