the lone ranger johnny depp
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writer: Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson
Running Time: 149 Minutes
Year: 2013

Gore Verbinski’s passion for Westerns is no secret. Following on from his animated kids flick with a heart, Rango, The Lone Ranger prowls deeper into the myths and legends of its titular character. It sets its sights on bringing the sheer awe of the plains and mountains of Texas into the fore as much as any of its leading characters. This first and foremost sets the tone and hints at a style previously witnessed in Pirates Of The Caribbean. This isn’t a small time flick about an outlaw. It’s a grandiose beast held together by a minimum of at least half a dozen exciting action sequences.

A souped-up origin tale about The Lone Ranger however, needs more than  action. It needs a heart to guide us through. It’s a befuddle when considering whose story the narrative opts to tell. Is it The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer), the district attorney-turned-vigilante off to avenge his brother’s death? Or is it Tonto (Johnny Depp), the Native American who shepherds him across Texas? With his name as the title you’d rightly expect TLR to drive the core of the story, but Verbinski’s loyalty to his hero is torn with his loyalty to Johnny Depp. Depp and Verbinski’s working relationship is emerging as one that shows no signs of slowing down. This marks the fifth time the two have united on a project, and as their professional and personal relationships have no doubt matured, it’s as if Verbinski has taken a hands off approach to directing the star. At moments the narrative marches forward, beating to the sound of Tonto’s drum. Seconds later, the charge is back with TLR. Sharing a story across two allies loosens the fascination we the audience should have with our hero. Is he truly a hero if each time a decision must be made, he is prompted by Tonto? It’s as if Tyler Durden was made flesh and chucked into the body of a stoic Native American. He calls the shots. Perhaps if the film had been pegged as The Lone Ranger And Tonto, this point would invalidate itself.

What of Mr. Reid himself? Armie Hammer takes to the role with as much vigour as is possible to muster for a leading character who can barely hand a teddy bear to a child without losing it. He’s undoubtedly a hero with a lot of flaws, which we hope to witness him overcome. By the time the end credits roll, there’s little evidence that he has learnt his lesson – that being, justice comes under many guises. That itself is one plot point we’re informed of repeatedly. It’s hard to recall any other of his personality traits – he is flimsier than his ally, bending when the plot needs moving and remaining rigid when a stand is made.

What’s surprising for a film with a 12A certificate is the brutality and frequency of violence. Almost crowbarred into the story, bloody moments of cannibalism, shooting and death throes are on the border of that rating. Mainly because they’re so casually thrown out there as if to infer that rarely does violence come with consequence. Another example of Disney’s inability to responsibly create worlds for its younger viewers.

the lone ranger johnny depp

Forgiving Verbinski of these slip ups, The Lone Ranger is an unusually enjoyable adventure.  Unusual because the prior expectation and final product are at either ends of the spectrum. Flaunting its extensive budget to its fullest extent, there’s rarely a moment when you’re not in the middle of a fight or a chase that’s about to turn into a fight. There’s not time in the story for the snooze button to be whacked. Beginning in 1933 via a wraparound device we flashback to the main story of district attorney Reid, whose path crosses with Tonto on a steam train. They bond after taking down a crew of outlaws who clamber aboard, setting free their buddy, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). The criminal kingpin becomes a target for our leading duo, sharing the baddie role with Railroad chief, Cole (Tom Wilkinson.) For a Disney flick, the archetypes are all present – hero, mentor, trickster, baddie, love interest. They’re not attempting to right any wrongs offered by practically their entire back catalogue.

“A big fun blockbuster, it rarely takes its foot off the gas, constantly bombarding with bigger and better action-packed, multi-location scenes as its gathers steam towards the ending.”

It’s a straightforward do-gooder story escalated with mammoth sequences. A big fun blockbuster. It rarely takes its foot off the gas, constantly bombarding with bigger and better action-packed, multi-location scenes as its gathers steam towards the ending. Some are the most exciting Verbinski has created in nearly a decade. Alas, more more more is not always the way to punch out a finale. Its leisurely 150 minute running time would have benefitted from a 30 minute edit, with that extra chunk heading onto the Blu-ray as its not detrimental in terms of content. It’s just too much. The final hour is akin to eating a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, feeling satiated, and then being told you’ve to eat another. Sure, you can manage it but there’s no desire to let the flavour and texture melt on your tongue – you’ve already had enough.

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