Verdict: 2.5 / 5
Ten years have passed since director Gore Verbinski and actor Johnny Depp teamed up to create Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, one of the biggest summer blockbusters of all-time. Since then the industry has changed a lot, with audiences in favor of darker, more realistic and more serious films. It’s no surprise then that their latest effort, The Lone Ranger, a funny, slick and lighthearted film, which rebrands Pirates of the Caribbean with horses and cowboys, is struggling to impress audiences at the box office. This re-imagining of the classic western flick, which plays freely with a few sensitive historical events, is filled with action, humour and is genuinely entertaining. Unfortunately, it also remains completely forgettable. The Lone Ranger is essentially a spoof of westerns, but like Wild Wild West learnt before; there is not much market for such experimentation.
Although The Lone Ranger is set in the same era as the classic 30s radio show and 50s television series, the re-imagining couldn’t be further removed from the original template. If you run through a Lone Ranger checklist – John Reid in a black mask, silver bullets, a horse named Silver and a Native American named Tonto – then this version qualifies. Fortunately or unfortunately, this version ventures down a different path, offering pure saloon door-swinging popcorn entertainment instead of a serious shooter. That being said, The Lone Ranger isn’t the cancer critics are making it out to be. There are far worse movies on the big screen at the moment. Buried deep inside the film, between the comedic exchanges and the enormous action sequences, is another blockbuster hit for the duo. Alas, running in at 149 minutes, it falls victim to a multitude of problems.
The movie starts with an unnecessary prologue – set in 1933 at a sideshow, a kid asks an aged Native American about the adventures of The Lone Ranger. We first meet our hero, square-jawed, charmingly sincere lawyer John Reid (Armie Hammer), on a train to the frontier, when a gang of bandits attack. Onboard the train is an imprisoned outlaw named Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and a subdued oddball Native American named Tonto (Johnny Depp). One thing leads to another and the unlikely partnership between Reid and Tonto leads them on a path for revenge and justice. Along the way they encounter a shady railroad tycoon (Tom Wilkinson), an honest sheriff (James Badge Dale), a plucky widow (Ruth Wilson), a one-legged brothel madam (Helena Bonham Carter) and a corrupt US marshall.
Armie Hammer shows a lot of promise in the hat and mask, galloping across Texas with Depp correcting wrongs. Not surprisingly, Depp steals the show in every scene, his screen time only challenged by the white horse, Silver. Silver is one of the coolest horses you’ll see on-screen. Of course, there are those that detest Johnny Depp as box-office poison, due to his attraction to eccentric characters. Tonto certainly is up on the top of the list of his weirdest performances.
Despite suffering from a number of cinematic sins, including its extravagant running time, The Lone Ranger does deliver on entertainment. It’s really not as bad as you imagined. You could do a lot worse on a Friday night at the movies with the kids.