The Lone Ranger

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A modern, big-budget version of “The Lone Ranger” starring Johnny Depp was always a strange proposition. The property had long been dormant, even though the name still carries recognition. Johnny Depp is also not the first person you’d think of to play a Native American, either, in spite of his questionable claims of Cherokee heritage. Then production woes set in, with major budget revisions and release date shuffling.

And indeed, the resulting film is strange. For a big budget spectacle movie, it’s quirky, long and offbeat. The titular character is more of a punching bag for jokes than an actual hero, the villains are outright old-timey mustache twirlers, and the sidekick is the star of the show.

Yet it’s certainly not without its charms and entertainment value. Patient viewers (and those that latch on to Depp’s odd, humorous Tonto) will be rewarded with a funny, fun summer action film.

In 1869, lawyer John Reid (Armie Hammer) is returning to his Texas home via train. Unbeknownst to him, the train is carrying a notorious outlaw named Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) to his hanging. When Cavendish’s gang attacks the train in order to break him out, Reid gets caught in a fight to prevent his escape. Helping him is a native American prisoner named Tonto (Johnny Depp), who was also being transported on the train. The two are unable to prevent Cavendish’s escape, but they do manage to save the lives of everyone on board.

Reid’s brother Dan (James Badge Dale) is a Texas Ranger, and when he forms a posse to recapture Cavendish afterwards, Reid goes along. Tragedy awaits, though, as the search party has a traitor in their midst and everyone who sets out is gunned down. Reid, however, survives, and finds himself reunited with Tonto upon awakening. Tonto also then introduces him to the super-intelligent horse, Silver, whom Tonto claims has identified Reid as a “Spirit Walker”: a person who has returned from the dead.

Reid is lucky to be alive, but determined to exact revenge for his brother’s killing. Tonto has his own cross to bear that aligns his interests with Reid’s. Insisting that Reid wear a mask in order to conceal his identity (he’s currently presumed dead), the two set off to find Cavendish and bring him to justice once and for all.

Which is really only a jumping off point for what becomes a long, complicated plot involving silver mines, the cross-country railroad and the battle against the Comanche; one of the film’s major issues is its sprawl. There are numerous plot strands, multiple villains, and dual leads. It runs nearly two and a half hours with major action bookends and sparse action in between. Story and character interplay fill between. Tonto is given significant development/motivation via flashback, and the Lone Ranger also needs to protect the family of his slain brother. Helena Bonham Carter and Barry Pepper both have side characters that appear in support of the heroes and villains, respectively. Finally, the entire film is “told” by an old Tonto to a young boy via flashback from a carnival in the early 1900s. It’s a device that adds to the runtime, and took a lot of getting used to, but did pay off in the end for me.

Armie Hammer’s Lone Ranger is a curious lead character. He’s idealistic, naïve, and clumsy. Frankly, at times he borders on the buffoonish. It’s an odd way to handle the character who ostensibly should be the focus of the film. The villains aren’t particularly well crafted, either. Fichtner’s Cavendish wears a scarred perma-sneer to accentuate his badness, and Tom Wilkinson’s railroad tycoon Latham Cole is so patently “Evil Robber Baron” that I don’t even consider it a spoiler to tell you he’s a villain in spite of the reveal not coming til late in the film.

And yet, in spite of all this, I found myself enjoying the film, primarily due to the combination of Depp and director Gore Verbinski.

Depp’s Tonto is one of the oddest, funniest characters you could ask for. With his mud cracked makeup and the dead raven he wears as a headdress, he’s visually strange. He’s also idiosyncratic; he insists on “feeding” the dead bird, has odd physical mannerisms, and frequently seems spacey… as if he took too much peyote as a young brave. Yet, he’s hysterically on top of Hammer’s Ranger, pointing out obvious ironies and oddities with cutting, deadpan comments. If brevity is the soul of wit, Tonto is one of the wisest characters to see the big screen in many years. He’s the main character of the film, and wisely so. He’s BY FAR the most interesting. In my opinion, Depp here has crafted a comic action character that nearly (note I said nearly) rivals his famous Captain Jack Sparrow. I can clearly see now why he wanted to take on this role.

With Depp’s Tonto keeping the film funny between action set pieces, Verbinski crafts a couple of beauties to open and close the film. While he should take criticism for the movie’s bloat and some of the lacking character work, he needs to be given credit for creating a couple of highly entertaining blockbuster set pieces, both of which revolve around trains heading towards certain doom, and characters running, riding, and jumping in, on and off of them. Both of which may go on a tad too long (leaving them vulnerable to accusations of overkill), but they undeniably will sate the modern audience’s need for fast paced action with cleverly inserted humor beats.

“The Lone Ranger” is certainly not your typical current action film. It has a unique, stoically humorous tone which may alienate some viewers, but endear others. It also (like TOO MANY of today’s films) suffers from “Epic-itis”, with a formidable runtime and a lot of fat on the story. Yet Depp’s remarkable Tonto and Verbinski’s big budget action set pieces save the day, making “The Lone Ranger” a film well worth watching.

A-

Daniel Fogarty

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66 thoughts on “The Lone Ranger

  1. Good review Fogs! The trailers never really did anything for me. The quick flashes of the Pirates logo in the trailers seems like they marketed the movie to that specific audience. It sounds like Pirates fans would enjoy it, I suppose. I’m really skeptical though. I just wish anything coming out would be as good as that first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was for me. I can’t really think of a better summer action/adventure movie. Not off the top of my head, at least.

  2. Wow!! An A- ? Your review here is excellent, but I would sense more of a B+ in here….either way, this is a rather positive review of a film that I saw squander a ton of potential. You’re also right, though — I really don’t think the importance of the quality of Depp’s Tonto could be emphasized enough; he saved this film from being absolutely terrible. I really didn’t like Armie Hammer here, but that might be a personal problem. . . other than that, the story (to me) seemed like a Kroger-version of Frosted Flakes or something.

    I did enjoy the action and the ending sequence seemed to capture the essence of the spirit of Lone Ranger the best.

    • “Wow!! An A- ? Your review here is excellent, but I would sense more of a B+ in here….” Thank you first off. The movie is taking such a beating, Tom, that I had to spend a lot of time ceding to the popular criticisms… I’m sure that make the review read less enthusiastically than the grade would indicate.

      Squandering a ton of potential seems to be the story of this summer. Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel… so far all of them have been majorly flawed, but still entertaining and appropriate for the season.

      You’re right on Hammer, I wasn’t high on him either. Depp compensated though, he was relatively hysterical to me. ;)

      • Yeah I guess I can’t pretend this is the first to squander potential. haha. i don’t think TLR is deserving of its low 20’s % on RT, but maybe I’d put it in the low-to-mid 40s. That might be more fair. Good to know you enjoyed it quite a lot, though. That’s always good.

      • It’s weird when you consider that all the major blockbusters this year have cast and crew involved which should at the very least guarantee critical success of some kind, but for the most part the majority have met with “blech” from critics and a large number of bloggers throughout.

        One hopes Guillermo is reading all this with one hand on the edit button of his AVID.

  3. Anything above a C on this is mind blowing. It looks like a kooky crappy version of the Wild Wild West. I think I will go back and watch The Warriors Way or Rango instead.

    Too many interesting and unique films hitting this summer to bother.

  4. Nice review bro. Mine is written and ready to post but I’m going to wait until Tuesday to post. Lets just say we view a few things differently. ;)

    • Ohhhh, don’t even worry about it Keith. Totally prepared to be the flag bearer for this movie.

      Gonna don my mask and be “The Lone Reviewer”.

      I’ll stop by and see what you have to see when I get a chance.

  5. Lol, now you get to experience the mockery I got when I gave THe Hangover Part 3 a 7/10. I don’t necessarily agree here, but as always I respect it when bloggers are willing to give their honest opinion without worrying about blowback

    • interesting…i really need to scope your review on Hangover, then. I was disappointed with that, but also really wish i could have found some positive reviews about it, in case i was being just a dick. :)

    • LOL. So true. There’s one (or more) every summer, buddy. That’s blogging for ya. Anyways, I would MUCH rather have it be me giving a high grade to a film people don’t like than me giving a low grade to a film people DO like. I gave a B+ (a B+) to “The Dark Knight Rises” and I thought I would never hear the %#$&ing end of it. :roll:

      Oh well, as to worrying about blowback, I don’t give a crap ;) It’s all part of the game…

  6. Nicely done Fogs. Seen some horror stories about this one so I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ll be checking this out with my dear ol’ dad as he used to love the original series. Hopefully I’ll have some fun with it.

  7. Aw, and here I’ve been enjoying watching this get thrashed six ways to Sunday by everybody… :D

    Haven’t seen it, obviously, and have little intention of doing so. Even aside from Johnny “I’m an Indian, really, even though I can’t keep it straight what tribe Granny supposedly was!” Depp, the previews just looked terrible. I think you’re likely to be one of the few boosters for this one.

    But it happens. I was one of the lone supporters for John Carter, after all…

    • Happens to all of us. Frankly, it’s never fun, but you’ve got to roll with it if you want to blog. I’m prepared to weather the storm this week. :roll:

      Anyways, I’d trash it if I thought it worthy, but it’s par for the big summer blockbuster course. Funny, and full of the kind of over the top action that we expect nowadays. Depp’s eventual performance erased any pre-conceived notions I had about whether or not he should have be given the part. Very unique, funny character. I had a blast with him.

      • All right, but here’s a question… unique, funny character… but was he Tonto? That’s something that I’ve been wondering about separate from the whole white-guy-playing-an-Indian factor, especially since you mention how bumbling and un-Rangerish the Lone Ranger is. It’s looked a lot like they just scripted entirely new characters and put them into the character slots instead of scripting the characters who they’re supposed to be playing.

      • Gotta be honest, I haven’t seen the original since I was a kid, and even then, it was no “Batman” for me. So, that aside, did he fit with what my recollection of Tonto was? No, neither did the Lone Ranger. Tonto here is a total smart ass, and definitely a touch off his rocker. But I found him interesting and entertaining, without a doubt. And he fit well with what they were trying to do. I enjoyed the character quite a bit… I can’t speak to how loyalists of the original will take to him though, unfortunately. :(

      • Fair enough. I think my brother is planning to watch this when it hits home video, just to see how bad it is (he was a big fan when he was a kid — had the lunchbox and everything, you know?) Maybe I’ll check it out with him then. We’ll see.

    • I have your back on John Carter Co. No worries.

      I was also a big Lone Ranger fan as a kid, and have absolutely no intention of seeing this, except maybe when it cycles around on TV. To paraphrase an old kids song:

      Where does Disney take its Lone Ranger?
      … to the dump, to the dump, to the dump dump dump…

      • Funny.

        It’s not half as bad as its being made out to be though. If you can take a break from the John Carter Appreciation Society at some point, you might get something out of this. LOL

  8. I like the review bud, I really do. But, I honestly just cannot agree with that rating up above. This movie had me bored to tears and I hope that in all sincerity it gets it’s money back. I highly doubt it will, but any chance of a sequel is enough to make me run and hide.

    • Oh yeah, there’s no chance of a sequel, Dan, that’s just gone, I think. It’s going to open pretty poorly I’m pretty sure.

      It’s ok, I know I’m not going to be in step with others here. Sorry to hear it bored you :(

    • Personally, I hope it DOESN’T make its money back, so that Disney learn to stop feeding us this overhyped tripe and start making blockbusters without Depp as the “star” – is it just me, or has Depp become as soulless and plastic as the rest of the major industry players getting about?

  9. Nice review, even though I disagree. I just couldn’t get behind a film that lacked a compelling hero so badly, and the constant use of that age-old cliche, the talkative villain really annoyed me. The last act was good fun but was it worth sitting through 2 unnecessarily long hours to get to? I’m not sure.

    • It required a great deal of patience, there’s no doubt. And having Tonto as the focal point was definitely a recipe for trouble… people are going to be looking to connect to the Lone Ranger, and he was kind of a doofus for the most part here. :roll:

      I can see why people had issues with it, but the humor and big set pieces made it an enjoyable watch for me.

  10. I can’t say I had any real interest in watching this movie, but that was a pretty great review, and now, dare I say, I might actually give it a try with some buddies. I’ll just make sure I have my expectations set appropriately. :)

    • Thanks Will. There’s not all that much risk involved… surprisingly no 3d to upcharge ticket prices 8O Still, tempered expectations are the way to go. I still have yet to find anyone else who’s seen and liked this one :(

  11. Sorry, but I’m going to flush this turkey. It reminded me of another Depp/Tv inspired movie-“Dark Sahdows”. The movie was treated as a jopke. What worked in “Pirates” did not work here. Killer rabbits? Horses in trees? Good thing I didn’t pay any money to see this. As it was I lost 2 and 1/2 hours that I’ll never get back. I am a big Lone Ranger fan. I even got to shake the hands of Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. This movie would have both of them spinning in their graves.

      • Think I don’t know the Rotten Tomatoes score, Al? :?

        Anyways, sorry it didn’t connect with you. Perhaps in this case your attachment to the original property hurt. Not that there aren’t plenty of people with no attachment to this lining up to kick it around…

  12. You are among the very small group of people I trust who actually enjoyed this film. Although i dispute the notion that we even needed a Lone Ranger movie (but then, Hollywood always finds way to resurrect a dead franchise) I’m kinda glad they did this time. I’ll approach this on Blu with the appropriate levels of reservation, from what I’ve heard, but I’m glad you enjoyed it. That’s enough for me.

    • Wellllll… if I keep going out on a limp like this, people may not trust me for long! :D

      There wasn’t a “need” for a Lone Ranger movie, but then again, movies are rarely “need” based, you know? It’s all just a chance to be entertained… ;)

  13. Good review, I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who enjoyed this one! ;) It does have its flaws, but it’s crazy (in a good way), quirky, and fun. This one has been getting a lot of flak from critics, and I was afraid to admit I actually liked it. LOL You have given me courage to post my review and admit I had fun with this one. :)

    • Ha haha haaaa… :D You’re not half as glad as I am!

      Crazy, quirky and fun is right. But you’re right, the rest of the critical world is marching in lockstep against this one, you and I are gonna take some heat for sure. I really did like this one, though…

      Thanks for having my back here Ash, I was definitely feeling like the only person on the planet who liked this one!

  14. Pingback: The Lone Ranger Review: Disney’s $250 Million Identity Crisis | Rorschach Reviews

  15. This was a great review Fogs and I have to say…I agree with you. I almost can’t believe it myself but I do. I went in to this film with very low expectations (think Wild Wild West/Pirates 4 expectations) and I ended up laughing more than any other comedy I’ve seen since Horrible Bosses (whether that was intentional or not I’m not sure). It’s bloated, cheesy, over-the-top and frankly stupid at times but I actually really enjoyed it. Glad to see I might not be that crazy after all.

    • Thank yoouuu TRAVIS!! :D

      This is turning out to be a movie where I count every commenter who agrees with me as a victory, LOL. It WAS funny, wasn’t it? Tonto cracked me up! I thought the action scenes were fun as well.

      Certainly this movie has flaws, but I think critics (and bloggers) are getting carried away beating it up… :(

      Thanks for chiming in with your support, it’s much appreciated!!

  16. Wow an A-, is Disney paying you? If so, how do I get in on that deal?
    Great review man, surprised on the score seeing how many people didn’t like it but sometimes you just got to take a stand right?

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