In the latest big-budget reimagining/origin story/whatever-it’s-called-now to come down the pipeline, John Reid (Armie Hammer) returns to his Texas hometown, fresh out of Ivy League law school, determined to bring outlaws to justice without resorting to violence and vigilantism. When vicious criminal Butch Cavendish (an appropriately grimy William Fichtner) escapes from custody, John is deputized by his Texas Ranger brother Dan (James Badge Dale) to join the hunting party. But after the Rangers are ambushed and killed, John escapes with a bullet wound and is nursed back to health by the mysterious Native American spirit warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp). From here they work together as a reluctant team, going after Cavendish’s gang and uncovering a massive corporate conspiracy in the process, on their way to becoming the iconic duo of television and radio serials past.
Reteaming Depp with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski, The Lone Ranger is essentially Pirates of the Caribbean in the Wild West. Yet whereas that series started strong and got more bloated with each subsequent entry, The Lone Ranger throws all that bombast at you right from the start. It’s a film that works in overdrive trying to impress, throwing not one but two high-octane speeding train action set pieces at you amidst a whole lot of other lunacy. While all of the mayhem is decently staged and often displays a kinetic creativity akin to the Pirates films, the movie chugs along at such a brusquely efficient pace that nothing really resonates. Every moment feels like set up for a franchise, but no one has bothered to create characters or ideas that audiences would care enough about to follow through this one film, let alone any further sequels.
Depp’s determination to recreate Tonto as the star of the film and bring some nobility back to the character means that John Reid has been recast as a naïve wimp for the entire runtime. This might be Depp’s grand plan, a reversal of crude racial stereotypes, but because of this, Reid never becomes someone you can root for, even when the film wants you to start rooting for him, and Hammer struggles to bring any sort of personality to the role. Depp doesn’t help matters as he undermines his own goal by playing Tonto as more of a caricature than anything else, so amused with his own quirkiness that he doesn’t realize how little humour or pathos he’s actually generating. Together the two of them have as little chemistry as Depp and Angelina Jolie did when attempting fizzy romantic banter in The Tourist .
Of course, issues of race representation clearly aren’t on the minds of the filmmakers and it’s only dealt with on the shallowest level. The sloppy message that The Lone Ranger does eventually present though, is one of putting aside differences and working together to overcome a government corrupted by wealthy corporate interests. Needless to say, that feels a tad insulting considering who’s behind the film.
Is The Lone Ranger Opening Weekend Worthy?
You could probably do worse in terms of blockbuster spectacles, but this is as soulless a piece of corporate Hollywood filmmaking as you’re going to come across this summer. I would recommend staying in and watching Depp’s 1995 badass mystical revisionist Western Dead Man instead, which actually deals with Native American representation in an important and engaging way.
The Lone Ranger Trailer
The Lone Ranger Production Gallery
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