Release date: 4th July 2013
Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, James Badge Dale, Helena Bonham Carter, Ruth Wilson, Barry Pepper
Review by Peter Gray
At one point almost entirely scrapped due to budget concerns, the 2013 take on the classic ‘Lone Ranger’ has arrived with plenty of clout and the best intentions. Re-teaming the winning combo of Johnny Depp and his ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ director Gore Verbinski, armed with a $200 million dollar budget and backed by producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the Disney studio, surely these are ample enough ingredients to create something worthy?
As the first hour clocked off my answer was yes as the initial moments of ‘The Lone Ranger’ hold promise for what could’ve been a ‘Pirates…’ style western. Depp is first introduced to us as an elderly Tonto, recounting his tale to a young boy who is wearing a Lone Ranger mask. As has been the typical Depp delivery in his last few film outings, his Tonto is particularly eccentric and played more for laughs, and though this act is getting a bit tiresome it plays out suitably enough as we follow Texas Ranger Dan Reid (James Badge Dale) transporting ruthless outlaw Cavendish (William Fichtner) to prison via a train that just so happens to come under attack from Cavendish’s gang. This first major action sequence is quite exhilarating, with Hans Zimmer’s spaghetti western score only adding to the fun, and fuels our hopes of the film being a consistent enjoyment.
The film unfortunately comes to somewhat of a stand-still once the aforementioned sequence comes to a close and proceedings don’t gain much momentum again until the climax, and whilst this final action spectacle is quite a visual feast, it’s arrival feels far too delayed as the 150 minute running time is cruel to say the least. As the title character Armie Hammer is acceptable enough, it’s just a shame they’ve opted to have the character be played for laughs. Hammer has the right look and build for a hero but his Ranger is a bit too jokey, shrieking and panicking throughout the various action sets before finally honing his heroic instincts. Though, like the sequence he finally mans up in, it’s a little too late. I imagine it might be easier to take Hammer’s lightweight Ranger if Tonto was able to pick up the slack but Depp’s eccentricities overpower the character that you end up with a relatively flat hero and a goofy sidekick who appears permanently under the influence.
The support cast are a mixed bag also with James Badge Dale the strongest contender as the Ranger’s brother and William Fichtner’s decidedly sadistic Cavendish livening proceedings up considerably. It should be noted that despite the low M rating the film has earned here, and its advertisements swaying towards younger viewers, this is a particularly gruesome film in context as Cavendish has a strong taste for human flesh with one sequence displaying this to considerable effect. Newcomer Ruth Wilson provides the token oestrogen as the Ranger’s love interest, but sadly she has very little to do other than look longingly at Hammer and play the damsel in distress, and though Helena Bonham Carter is involved (and looking distinctly like she waltzed off the set of a Tim Burton movie) she winds up having even less to do with her role as a peg-legged brother madam playing out more like an extended cameo – in fact you could remove all of Carter’s scenes and the story wouldn’t suffer for it.
I’m sure there’s a plan here to launch a Lone Ranger franchise, but sadly this is not the beginning that was hoped for. As predictable as he is, Depp is still amusing as Tonto and there’s nothing wrong with Hammer’s acting per se, and the film at least looks amazing but ‘The Lone Ranger’ is far from the epic adventure it wants to be. With the opening and closing of its extreme runtime proving the most enjoyable, the film knows it holds some genuinely enjoyable moments, I just wish it had the sense to know that less is sometimes more.
My rating 3/5 (A little editing needed for this long excursion)