The Lone Ranger
Uneven tone and lack of chemistry make film feel like a vanity project gone awry
In reviving The Lone Ranger, the trio of Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski and super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer were undoubtedly trying to recapture the energy of the classic Clayton Moore TV series as well as their own Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, while tipping their hat to other classic Wild West favourites. But the film that results shares more in common with another renowned Western, Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, which is also remembered as one of the genre’s costliest flops. On this occasion, though, the reasons for the failure are more obvious. Verbinski’s film feels like a vanity project gone way, way awry. The bloated running time frequently feels indulgent, the tone is all over the place and the central partnership is just not that interesting to overcome these and other flaws.
The plot takes the form of an origins story that chronicles how earnest lawman John Reid (Armie Hammer) came to be known as the masked Lone Ranger with Native American warrior Tonto (Depp) as his partner and also involves corrupt politicians, cannibalistic outlaws and unrequited love interests. But while giving rise to a couple of inventive set pieces and making the most of its spectacular Monument Valley locations, there’s just no ignoring the sense that The Lone Ranger doesn’t convince on many levels.
The framing device, involving Depp’s ageing Tonto recalling the story to a star-struck boy, is unnecessary, potentially interesting characters are discarded (including, most notably, Helena Bonham Carter’s whorehouse owner) and the tone veers unevenly from scenes involving cannibalism and Indian massacres one minute, to absurd humour the next. Depp’s performance even seems to be trading on the familiar, while his chemistry with Hammer is largely non-existent. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the film ends up on a runaway locomotive as this feels like a train wreck throughout.