Film review: Despite itself, The Lone Ranger delivers

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Johnny Depp (left) pumps up the irony as Tonto to Armie Hammer’s Lone Ranger. Johnny Depp (left) pumps up the irony as Tonto to Armie Hammer’s Lone Ranger.

In case you missed it, lots of people are angry over Johnny Depp’s decision to play Tonto in the manner he plays Tonto in The Lone Ranger. There’s further anger over the decision to have a white man play Tonto. And the dead bird on his head. Et cetera.

Sorry, peeps: The redface is a red herring. Depp is pretty smart, and his decision to play Tonto as an ironic version of his TV counterpart is rather inspired. 1. Draw the people in/get the dander up with something familiar and taboo; 2. Turn familiar/taboo image on its head; 3. Have last giggle to bank as familiar image/taboo becomes hero instead of laughingstock.

Depp and his frequent collaborators, director Gore Verbinski and screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (along with screenwriter Justin Haythe), have done what they do best: They’ve taken a thin premise and turned it into big, brashy, overlong entertainment. On the Verbinski/Depp enjoyment scale, The Lone Ranger lands somewhere after the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie and before its follow-ups. (Rango stands alone.)

Sometime in 1869, attorney John Reid (Armie Hammer) returns to Texas from the East Coast, joins his brother as a ranger on a hunt for outlaws in Indian Territory, and gets shot to shit. Tonto (Depp), with the help of a smart and wily white horse, brings Reid back to life—or he never died; it’s not clear, intentionally—as the Lone Ranger and together they hunt down the people responsible for killing Reid’s brother.

That ain’t the half of it, of course. There’s also Tonto’s quest for the men who killed his family. And then there’s Reid’s long-lost love, Rebecca (Ruth Wilson); the railroad magnate (Tom Wilkinson); the cavalry officer (Barry Pepper); and the super-bad guy, Butch Cavendish, played with appropriate hamminess by a wonderful William Fichtner. And lots and lots of bullets.

As with all Verbinski movies post-The Ring, The Lone Ranger has way too much happening. At 149 minutes, there are about 40 minutes of shenanigans and story that could go and we’d miss nothing. For example, the entire movie has a framing device with Depp playing a very old Tonto. It serves no purpose.

Then there’s the standard Rossio-Elliott plot-heaviness. Some of the characters aren’t what they seem. Some of them are, and some of them are worse than we can imagine. The reveals—and audiences will figure out the plot twists before the characters in the movie do—shouldn’t take this much time when it’s pretty clear who’s good and who’s bad the moment they walk on screen.

All the actors are fun, especially Fichtner and Depp. For all those who think Depp is making fun of the Comanche—the tribe that adopted him—the joke’s on them. This entire movie is a joke.

That brings us to Armie Hammer, who’s in on the joke, but also the butt of it. He just doesn’t have much to do. If his comic timing were better—if his character(s) were better developed, as in The Social Network—he’d be as vital as Tonto. But he isn’t. Tonto just needs kemosabe to get shot at, which is a nice change of pace for the character who used to be the sidekick.

The Lone Ranger PG-13, 149 minutes

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

 

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Movie houses:

Carmike Cinema 6
973-4294

Regal Downtown Mall
Cinema 6
979-7669

Regal Stonefield 14
and IMAX
244-3213

Vinegar Hill Theatre
977-4911

  • max

    These two guys look like runway drag queens. Ridiculous film. Tonto probably takes two hours to get his ensemble just right in the morning, by which time the Lone Ranger has already nabbed a couple of cattle rustlers

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