The incessant swashbuckling of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is given the western treatment. The same team (director Gore Verbinski, starring Johnny Depp etc) produce the same problems, making The Lone Ranger another chance for Depp to get out his dressing up box and admire his own eccentricity in this overlong, poorly plotted and rarely exciting adaptation of the American legend.
The film peaks early with an exhilarating runaway train sequence which nestles you nicely into your seat, only for bottoms to get rather sore after the subsequent two and a half hours of repetitive and humourless escapades. The story’s told from the utterly redundant viewpoint of ‘Old Tonto’, a Native American who has been reduced to being a circus exhibit. He encounters a young boy and in flashbacks, looks back on his glory days as the sidekick to the legend of justice, John Reid (Armie Hammer). This storytelling technique serves no purpose whatsoever apart from ridding any possible fear that Tonto’s life could be in danger.
What can be said for Depp’s Tonto? He treats the challenging topic of playing a Native American with complete disdain. Of course it’s essentially an action film so historical accuracy isn’t wholly necessary but it’s just a stupid, insensitive deadpan performance which can only be pleasing himself and typifies everything charmless and ill-considered about the film. It’s just not funny. Its action is unrelenting and only occasionally entertaining, its characters non-entities. There’s no Western spirit but instead the tired, over-exuberance of the high seas of Pirates have dried up into the Deep South. It takes an age for Armie Hammer to finally put on the Lone Ranger’s mask and when he does there’s nothing mysterious or dangerous about the character, he’s just a bit too bookish to be a badass.
It’s not quite as bad as that other misjudged high concept Western from recent years, Cowboys & Aliens but it’s not far off. Similarly, despite star names it seems to have majorly bombed at the box office which might just be the sort of signal Disney and Depp deserve.
Review by David Rank
The Lone Ranger is out now in the US and out on 9th August in UK. Running time 149 mins. Certificate 12a (UK).