News Column

REVIEW: 'The Lone Ranger'

July 3, 2013


July 03--What a great metaphor to have so many train wrecks in the movie. Another great metaphor comes when the hero of this steaming pile of excess motion picture is literally dragged through a steaming pile of horse manure.

"The Lone Ranger" is a train wreck. "The Lone Ranger" stinks.

"The Lone Ranger" is yet another of Johnny Depp's quirky flights of fancy, guiding us into the Old West as Tonto, the noble American Indian, by way of the Mad Hatter and Jack Sparrow.

The movie has no sense of history and no honor.

In a season filled with bloated action-movies that run on far too long, this is the summer's longest bomb yet at 149 minutes of explosions and dumb jokes staged by people with no respect for the Western, still one of Hollywood's finest achievements.

For those with knowledge of the iconic masked-man, a creation of 1930s radio serials and immortalized by 1950s television, there is no pride in seeing their hero so denigrated.

For the young who seek out this flick, they won't understand the Western references to begin with, so in turn they won't get the jokes being riffed on those references.

"The Lone Ranger" will find an audience of both young and old saying: What was that about?

It's supposed to be about a heroic Texas Ranger and his equally gallant partner in the pursuit of justice, and while John Reid -- our masked hero -- has been turned on his head character-wise, at least we have Armie Hammer in the saddle as the film's only saving grace.

The bright-eyed young man best known for his portrayal of the Winklevoss twins in "The Social Network" creates a masked man we may barely recognize from a personality standpoint.

But the actor's affability combined with the buffoonery keeps the spirit intact: The Lone Ranger is an unflappable, straight-arrow lawman whose sense of justice remains intact in an era where a violent brand of "frontier justice" is pervasive.

John Reid is to be the new district attorney upon returning from college to his home in 1869 Colby, Texas, where his Ranger brother is a local hero married to the woman (Ruth Wilson, one of multiple Brits in the cast) who is loved by both men.

But the times are restless with the lightning-quick building of the Transcontinental Railroad headed in the area by an obvious villain (Tom Wilkinson in a mustache-twirling role) and the presence of a mad-dog gang of outlaws headed by a greasy sidewinder by the name of Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) roaming the countryside.

John's survival of an attack that kills his brother leaves him hunting for Cavendish and also partnered with a rogue Comanche by the name of Tonto, who sees John as a "crazy white man" but also as a "spirit rider" who survived death and cannot be killed.

Wearing permanent war paint and having a dead bird perched atop his head while muttering one-liners to himself as he smirks and leers, Depp creates the first Tonto with a kooky sense of humor, if that's what you want to call this dopey act.

The performance is an outlandish joke among many in the movie. This is a Western in which we are introduced to sideshow freaks, a peg-legged prostitute, a cannibal outlaw, a cross-dressing outlaw and a horse that drinks whiskey and wears hats.

This gosh-awful assembly line of quirks for the sake of quirkiness grows tiresome fast, and any serious message of culture clash and race relations through brotherhood are given the "Hiyo, Silver, away!" treatment.

By hiring the all-powerful star, the director and the writers of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, we get a movie we feel like we've seen four times already.

Except that none of the "Pirates" movies had a story of greed and revenge as obvious as the stale plot here. The comedy was also better, and so were the stunts.

I can remember when they made Westerns that didn't need computer-generated thrills.

What would Jay Silverheels say if he was still alive to voice a bit of his TV character's pidgin English?

"Tonto laugh at bad movie, cannot fix with editing, much money wasted."

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