Hi-Ho Silver, Away!
Well, not so much.
Gore Verbinski, Jerry Bruckheimer and Johnny Depp team-up once again, this time to tell the tale of The Lone Ranger. The movie begins in San Francisco, 1933, where a very old and wrinkly Native American Tonto, played by Depp, tells the tale of the Lone Ranger to a young boy. His story begins in 1869. New District Attorney John Reid, played by Armie Hammer, is train bound returning to his home town of Colby Texas. Unbeknownst to Reid, there is a prison car attached to the train housing Butch Cavendish, a nasty piece of work who is to be hanged in Colby upon arrival. Chained to Cavendish’s side is none other than Tonto. Cavendish’s men attack the train, kill the conductor and secure his escape. In the process, Reid and Tonto are chained to one another and narrowly escape with their lives. From then on, the two are inseparable – although they’d like to be -and eventually team up, with Reid brandishing the black mask of the Lone Ranger to go after Cavendish. In doing so, they unearth an even bigger plot involving silver and the creation of a war between the US Cavalry and Native Americans.
The Lone Ranger had promise. Prior to going into the theater, I had kept clear of reviews. I went in with my expectations at a minimum. It’s a summer blockbuster. It’s Jerry Bruckheimer. Enjoy it for what it is. I think I did that for the most part. Yet, I have a feeling The Lone Ranger could have been far more than what it was. The memorable moments were few and far between, but they may shed some light onto what was missed. Armie Hammer is a very good dramatic actor. But as a comedian, I have my doubts. His character is a bumbler. He causes more problems than he solves. When done right, this can be fun to watch. But it isn’t here. Unfortunately, his acting prowess is lost, swept away by the comedic nature of the film which I didn’t find very funny. I love humor, but I don’t like it when the laughs are cheap. A horse drinking booze, rabid CGI rabbits devouring a slice of meat, bad one-liners – it all made me cringe. If toned down, The Lone Ranger could have been far greater.
Further, the chemistry between Hammer and Depp is barely adequate and never offers the true camaraderie needed to make a buddy-picture great. They never seem to fit beyond the remnants of a bickering old couple. This leads into one of the biggest problems I had with The Lone Ranger – I just didn’t care about the characters. This is essential when the suspension of disbelief is required, especially when over-the-top stunts are involved. I needed to care for the Lone Ranger and Tonto. I wanted them to survive their near impossible death-defying acts of bravery. One Verbinski, Bruckheimer and Depp film that did work largely because of the chemistry between the three main cast members was Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Depp, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom worked so well together, you could feel it coming off the screen, which created a feeling of camaraderie with the audience. It mattered if our heroes were to be killed, so we rooted for them to survive preposterous situations. The same can’t be said for the main characters in The Lone Ranger, and that’s too bad. By comparison, Pirates makes for a far more engaging summer blockbuster.
Now for the big question: how was Johnny Depp as Tonto? In a word – okay. Depp’s roles recently have become too consistently off-beat, whether in Dark Shadows or Alice in Wonderland. Maybe it’s too much of a good thing. Has Johnny Depp saturated us with what made him stand out from the crowd of great actors? Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood come to mind. How about Depp playing a Native American? Honestly, it didn’t bother me in the slightest. I never took it as an odd casting decision. He’s Johnny Depp! He can, and will do, many things just because he finds them interesting. Or he just likes hanging out with Verbinski and Bruckheimer and getting a big, fat check.
There were a few bight spots in The Lone Ranger. One, of course, was the music. At opportune moments, Hans Zimmer gave us what we came for – “The March of the Swiss Soldiers”, the finale of Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”. When I heard it, I was like a little kid watching reruns in front of my TV again, goose bumps galloping all over my body. Second, William Fichtner plays a great Butch Cavendish. He’s slimy, ruthless and fun to watch. With his snarled up lip, I hardly recognized him. But his performance was a standout in a film that wasn’t.