Genre: Action, Adventure
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner
In a year when Tarantino has already reinvigorated the Western with his own brand of storytelling, The Lone Ranger initially feels quite redundant. It’s been over 30 years since we last saw John Reid on the screen and despite his iconic place in American culture there were few cries for the masked crusader to return to the big screen. Given the awful return the film has made at the box office, there will be few cries for a sequel too. Depp & Verbinski blame the negative critical reception for the film’s failure but that isn’t the only reason; similar to the Pirate sequels, The Lone Ranger is an abject disappointment that wastes the talents of its cast with convoluted plotting.
The titular Ranger is John Reid, who’s left for dead in an ambush by outlaw Butch Cavendish that also claims the life of Reid’s brother Dan. Tonto, a Native American with his own reasons for pursuing Cavendish, rescues John and together they form an alliance to take down the outlaw & his gang, with Reid sporting a mask to hide his face from the enemy. Various sub-plots involving rail roads and silver mines bulk out the film’s bum-numbing running time but do little to enhance the story. As with Pirates 2 & 3, Ranger suffers from an overly convoluted plot that detracts from the fun; it’s hard to enjoy yourself when you’re so busy trying to work out whose side everyone is on.
It’s this botched script that hinders many other aspects of the film. In the lead role, Armie Hammer is likeable but uninteresting. Reid’s transformation from moral lawyer to gung-ho fighter is hard to believe and even harder to care about; the languorous opening – it takes an hour for Reid to first don the mask – putting the audience in a understandably negative frame of mind.
Johnny Depp’s attempts to create a new franchise carrying character barely muster a smile; Tonto spends most of his time either speaking in ominous short phrases, or feeding the dead bird emblazoned on his head. The lack of entertaining material makes Depp’s presence feel like a waste, as does Ruth Wilson’s; consigned to a stock damsel in distress role that is forgotten about for large portions of the second act. Meanwhile, Helena Bonham Carter’s role is so small you barely have time to notice her presence.
Top marks to William Fichtner, who creates a suitably hissable baddie in Butch Cavendish. You get the sense that a real effort was made to make Cavendish an antagonist worthy of fighting Reid’s alter ego, even if that same effort wasn’t put in to the titular character himself.
Verbinski tries to make the best of what he has and visually the film is incredible; particularly the wide, sweeping shots of the Grand Canyon, that bring to mind the classic John Ford Westerns. Less successful are the films regular action beats, which (for the most part) are as overstretched & confused as the narrative.
Weakened by a terrible script that’s narratively chaotic and seems more content with wasting the talents of its cast than utilizing them. The Lone Ranger isn’t without its moments, but unless you’re really that keen on seeing John Reid and Tonto back on the big screen, this is unlikely to be worth your time.