Jul 032013

The Lone Ranger

“Hi-Yo, Silver! Away! A lone ranger and his unlikely companion Tonto fight against greed and corruption in the wild west, where rules are mere suggestions, woman are hopeless and horses can out-run trains. Review of Disney’s The Lone Ranger after the jump.

John Reid (Arnie Hammer) is a law-abiding man. He’s been off to the big smoke to be educated, and he’s now back in the wild west, ready to bring some much-needed law and justice to the place. John’s brother Dan (James Badge Dale) is a Texas Ranger who believes in a more traditional way of dishing out the law. Dan ropes John into becoming a ranger so that he can see how things really work, and the men head out on a mission which ends prematurely when the rangers are ambushed by recently escaped prisoner and notorious outlaw, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). John survives the attack thanks to the assistance of the mysterious Native American Tonto, and the two men set out on a mission for justice. They must navigate not only the wild west’s known outlaws, but the criminals that hide in plain site and use the construction of the railroad to both fuel and obscure their greed and criminal acts.

Adapted from the long-running radio series (with almost 3000 episodes) of the same name, and following on from several film versions of the story, the 2013 incarnation of The Lone Ranger leaves a lot to be desired. I can’t imagine that families listening to the radio show would have ever imagined something as dark, violent and convoluted as what Gore Verbinski has created. What started off as effectively a story of Cowboys and Indians and adventures in the wild west, has evolved into something entirely unsuitable for the family audience it was originally created for. The film is told by a now elderly Tonto, who is recounting the story to a young boy who has approached the Native American display which he stands in. If that boy could have seen what the audience had seen, I am sure he would have been rather disturbed. There is excessive violence, including the massacre of hundreds of Native Americans which is brushed off almost without thought. Despite it being done in a “humourous” fashion, I don’t find hitting women funny or appropriate. How about giving female characters something to do other than be rescued or be whores? The death of a horse, due to what I can only assume is dehydration and/or exhaustion, is also used to garner laughs. I found this particularly cruel.

If The Lone Ranger isn’t for families, then who is it for? I ‘m really not sure who the audience is supposed to be. The tone of the film is sporadic and uneven, unsure of what it wants to be most of the time. It’s too dark and violent for families, it takes itself far too serious to be a comedy (and it really isn’t very funny) and it’s too long and overwrought to be a cheesy action flick. The film switches between the genres seemingly at will, and as a result the final product feels fractured. Johnny Depp’s performance feels as scattered as the film, as he frequently switches between playing the character dead-pan and slapstick.  Armie Hammer is serviceable, but lacks the presence to really excel a leading role. Helena Bonham Carter is again playing an off-kilter type, but at least her character has something interesting to do. Thankfully, the film is not without merit. The impressive action sequences involving train chases provided much-needed energy to the often flat film. While the gags with [Silver] the horse are incredibly cheesy, they did make me laugh each and every time. In addition, the photography effectively [and quite stylishly] presented a harsh and barren wild west. I felt the dry heat from the sun, as much as I felt the film’s long run-time.


By Sam McCosh



The Facts

Director: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Helena Bonham Carter
Runtime: 149 minutes
Release date(s): USA: July 3 2013; Australia & New Zealand: July 4 2013