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THE LONE RANGER (review)

lone_ranger_ver2THE LONE RANGER
Written by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Starring Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer and William Fichtner
 

Tonto: Something very wrong with that horse.

I questioned the need for a Lone Ranger movie pretty much from its initial announcement way back in 2008. While there is no denying the influence the masked man has had over popular culture, there didn’t seem to be any apparent need for it to be brought back to the masses. When Johnny Depp signed on to play the role of Comanche Indian and best friend to the Lone Ranger, Tonto, I became concerned that this venture might actually be a full on disaster. With all of its production delays and overblown budgets finally behind them, Disney is now ready to reveal THE LONE RANGER to audiences and, while it isn’t as disastrous nor as offensive as I expected it to be, it is still a mess that clearly had way too much money thrown at it, in hopes that would solve all of its problems.

With Depp starring and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL director, Gore Verbinski, at the helm, it seems pretty obvious to me that Disney is looking for a new franchise to mirror their past pirate successes. Maybe even one day, it could be a theme park ride … with horses and guns and hatchet-wielding Indians! If it was going to match that unsinkable ship though, THE LONE RANGER would have needed to have been a much more focused effort than it is. Verbinski just seems torn between how he wants to tell his story. One moment, it is a family friendly thrill ride that is, while often times wholly unbelievable, still reasonably entertaining. At other moments, Verbinski seems to want to get his true grit on, as he steers the action into often violent and surprisingly gruesome territory. Jumping back and forth between these two drastically different tones takes away from the seriousness of the violence and shows family audiences that there are few consequences to violent behaviour. After all, how can you focus on dozens of slaughtered Indians when two minutes later you’re laughing at a horse in a tree?

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THE LONE RANGER finds a very aged Tonto as part of a traveling circus, telling the story of how he and his bestest kemosabe, the Lone Ranger himself, played by Armie Hammer, came to work together to begin with. The story flashes back from 1933 (incidentally, the year the Lone Ranger first ever appeared as a radio program) to Texas, 1859, where John Reid (Hammer) and Tonto reluctantly pair up to settle similar scores. Hammer and Depp anchor this unwieldy production with their effortless chemistry. Hammer’s genuineness and unflinching adherence to the law is refreshing and endearing and, as much as Depp shouldn’t have been cast in this part to begin with, he is fairly charming as Hammer’s reluctant sidekick. Their chemistry is nowhere near enough to elevate this film past its problems but that’s a tall order to begin with. It reeks at times of JOHN CARTER-itis, a diseased and troubled picture from inception that needs more and more money to appear as though important and necessary. Fortunately  though for Disney and THE LONE RANGER, Johnny Depp is no Taylor Kitsch.

3

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