Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Armie Hammer, Johnny Depp, William Fitchner, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, James Badge Dale
Running time: 149 minutes
Lawman John Reid (Hammer), guided by a code and driven by loyalty, transforms into the legendary masked outlaw to bring justice to the land, helped by his Native American sidekick, Tonto (Depp).
The press surrounding The Lone Ranger hasn’t been good. It looks set to lose Disney in the region of $120m thanks to the massive budget and reportedly baggy shoot, and it’s been bombarded with lukewarm to downright nasty reviews since it was press screened, leaving it on a measly 29% RT approval rating. All of these things, plus the 149 minute running time, left me finding it incredibly hard to muster up any excitement for the film, but, just perhaps, that’s exactly what I needed.
We begin in San Fransisco in the 1930s where a little boy meets an aged Native American at a history museum. As the Indian begins to recite the tale of the famous The Lone Ranger, we delve back a few decades to a world of train robbery, bounties and outlaws, where John Reid rides a train harboring two criminals; Tonto and the infamous Butch Cavendish, a Mola Ram-esque bad guy played horribly well by the excellent William Fitchner. It’s a fantastic opening sequence that sets the rapid tempo of the action to come, even if this one isn’t matched until the very end. One of the first things to really strike me about the film was how dark it got at times – for a 12A – usually through Cavendish. It’s not exactly pitch black; there isn’t an abundance of blood or many prolonged, hanging shots of violence, but a guy does cut out someone’s heart and eat it. I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s pretty grim.
The cast is filled out with some great names, from the always reliable Tom Wilkinson to the excellent but never given enough to do James Badge Dale to the inevitable Helena Bonham Carter/Johnny Depp team-up, and Armie Hammer fits the titular role nicely off the back of impressive turns in The Social Network and J. Edgar. Depp is a strange one here. He is good, as he kind of always is, but at the same time we don’t believe in him for a second. I could’ve done with just a little less kookiness for a start. He’s supposed to be a Native American, but it’s just Johnny Depp pretending to be a Native American, and Tonto basically just becomes Jack Sparrow, and the film basically just becomes Pirates Of The Caribbean in the old west, exemplified in a scene involving two locomotives racing side by side while Tonto crosses from one to the other on a ladder – swap the trains for boats and what are you left with?
Every once in a while we cut back to San Fransisco, where the aged Tonto answers a few questions from the boy he’s telling the story to, but these cuts really don’t work. They’re unnecessary for one, in that they don’t tell us anything important or provide any exposition, but more problematically they just chop into the flow of the film. Too often I would feel jolted out of the world that had just spent half an hour immersing me, only for a little boy to ask a bunch of questions that we know will be answered later on in the film anyway. Cut these out and the running time would come down a little too, which would be nice.
It’s doing absolutely nothing new; we’ve seen the story a hundred times before and the character paths are awfully predictable (has Tom Wilkinson ever played a different character?), but to be fair, it’s doing it pretty well. The action sequences are fun, adrenalised and exciting, and when that William Tell Overture kicks in you just can’t help but don a big, goofy smile. It never drags either, despite the monster running time, and there are several nice references to classics like Once Upon A Time In The West, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly and, strangely, The Lord Of The Rings. In other words, it keeps you perfectly entertained.
This is generally a pretty fun ride that mercifully doesn’t feel as long as it is. It won’t blow you away or live particularly long in the memory, but there doesn’t have to be anything wrong with that when the journey is fun, and it doesn’t deserve to be tanking quite so hard.