In this origins story, John Reid (Armie Hammer) takes on the mantle of the Lone Ranger when Butch Cavendish (William Fitchner) and his crew ambush, and brutally murder Reid’s brother. Reid joins forces with an odd but insightful Native American Tonto (Johnny Depp) in his quest for justice.
The Lone Ranger is a cultural phenomenon that has seeped into our consciousness, whether we grew up watching it or not. The movie has already been brutalised by US critics, but since Irish audiences may have less of a vested interest in the movie, and here, the film may not have as much weight of history hanging over it.
The choice to cast Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger was an interesting one. There is little doubt that Hammer has proven himself as an actor, but it also does not seem as though he is quite ready to carry a movie the size of The Lone Ranger by himself. This is where Depp steps in, and avoids some of the mess made by trusting Taylor Kitsch with the weight of John Carter. Hammer does well enough with what he is given, but playing up the comedy of a tragic character seems strange at times. That said, a lot of the main laughs in the film come from Hammer’s performance and there is a standout moment involving him being shot with an arrow.
Johnny Depp gives the same performance as he did in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Tonto is made out to be eccentric and socially awkward; much more at home talking to (obviously fake) horses than his human counterpart. Depp gives the same wide eyed, slightly stoned performance as we have seen from him many times in recent years and, while there is no doubt that this is something he is good at, this makes the film feel as though we are watching Jack Sparrow in the Wild West.
Helena Bonham Carter dials down the eccentricity and plays brothel owner Red as a strong woman with a dark past. Of course, the character has her eccentricities, but for Bonham Carter, this feels almost sedate. Tom Wilkinson plays Cole, a venture capitalist with a fondness for bending the law, William Fitchner does admirably as bad guy Butch and Ruth Wilson is insipid and thin as love interest Rebecca – this is not the actress’ fault, however.
With a two and a half hour running time, The Lone Ranger is perhaps an hour too long, which means that the film feels bloated, drawn out and seriously loses pace at more than one point. There is also too much going on in the film, with Reid battling his own demons, coming to terms with the death of his brother, taking on the might of the Native Americans and capitalism in the form of the railroad. As well as this, it feels as though a decision could not be made with regard to tone; the film swings between tragedy and farce many times, and there are moments when the film dances dangerously close to racism, although the Native Americans manage to get their own back on the white man. Hurrah!
The set pieces are loud and silly, but this is what we have come to expect from the pairing of Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp, with some Jerry Bruckheimer thrown in for good measure. All of the sets for the film were actually built, which gives The Lone Ranger a feel of reality and warmth, and the cinematography shows Monument Valley at its most beautiful.
The Lone Ranger feels like a film we have seen before; Johnny Depp’s performance certainly helps to reinforce this. That said, the film looks beautiful and has moments of greatness, it’s just a shame that this is lost in a bloated running time, messy pacing and repetitive set pieces. Tonally, the film is a mess, but this is not to say that there is nothing fun here; leave your brain at the door, ignore the mess and enjoy the ride, just don’t expect it to make a lot of sense.