Not many things make me think of the enormity of the world or make me question my own mortality like being stuck in the vastness of a desert terrain. In Mexico, I’ve had to walk across these great, barren plains, all the time worrying about scorpions, snakes and the occasional agitated armadillo. While walking across, you can’t help but briefly consider that this may be the day you die. I can only picture how daunting it was to travel the American West with complete uncertainty, never knowing if you would dehydrate or be attacked by bandits. After 2 minutes of walking up this hill, I wonder if I’ll ever see my family again. When I finally reach the top I see the shopping center I was walking towards the whole time. This 5 minute journey to the grocery store felt like an eternity and ended about as anticlimactically as it began, much like the entirety of Disney’s The Lone Ranger.
We come across this very old man in Native American garb at a carnival. His name is Tonto (Johnny Depp) and he has a story to tell us of heroism, justice, and the wild, wild west. Fade into the past, where the west was as lawless as it was merciless. John Reid (Armie Hammer) is a clean cut man of the law. He believes that justice should be left up to the courts to decide. Unfortunately, “justice” has a different definition for his brother, the sheriff of the town John has come to visit. Before arriving to town though, John manages to let a bad guy, Butch Cavendish (William Fitchner), escape the train while John is left chained to the other fugitive on the train, Tonto.
One shoot-out and a train crash later, John makes it to the city only to be forced on a hunt to take down Butch. After finally catching up to Butch, the team finds themselves in the middle of a trap that ends in the death of everyone, including John Reid and his brother. Tonto, having just escaped the city’s jail, discovers the massacre and buries/loots the bodies. That’s when he discovers they are not all dead. John comes back from the dead and teams up with Tonto to hunt down Butch, the cannibalistic demon man. In order to keep his identity a secret, John puts on a mask and becomes the Lone Ranger, and with the help of Red Harrington (Helena Bonham Carter), a prostitute with a heart of gold and a leg of porcelain, he decides to get justice for his brother and his family.
Gore Verbiniski (Rango) tries to inject the same wacky absurdity that made the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise for the most part likeable. In The Lone Ranger Verbinkski just comes off as lackadaisical and a bit irreverent and insulting. I have absolutely nothing against Johnny Depp, but his portrayal of Tonto bordered on the disrespectful. Tonto has always been portrayed as a strong, honorable Native American. His name is supposed to mean “wild one” in his native tongue, but the character behaved more like the Spanish translation of his name, which means “idiot”. Depp is close to a regurgitation of his previous roles, except with a dead crow on his head. If that weren’t bad enough, Armie Hammer comes off as more of a sidekick, taking a back seat role in a movie where he should be the focus.
At close to two and a half hours, this bloated film has neither the action nor comedy to keep us entertained. The only thing I can say about the pacing is that it really did feel like I was trapped in a desert, tumbleweeds and all. The majority of the action happens at the beginning and the end of the film, leaving you to basically fend for yourself and fight to stay awake. This film suffered a major identity crisis. On one hand, you have a very serious story involving murder, gore and cannibalism, while on the other hand you have Johnny Depp and a prostitute with a special leg. For a comedy, it could have used more jokes and antics. For a serious action film it could have used more fight sequences, a cohesive story, and no Johnny Depp.
The Lone Ranger ends up being like a bad vacation to a place you never wanted to go to. You leave upset that you wasted your time and vow to never go back there again. Unfortunately, this feels like it is just the beginning of a trilogy of Disney bought faux-westerns. For a true modern take on a western, you’re better off watching Verbinski’s Rango, where the main character is a talking chameleon. You will be infinitely more satisfied.
RATING: ★★ (2/10 stars)
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