Pirates of the Prairie

Lackluster ‘Lone Ranger’ is a a comedy western mess

By Lori Hoffman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jul. 10, 2013

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The Lone Ranger is not really a western in the hands of director Gore Verbinski. It plays out more like one of his Pirates of the Caribbean movies set on dry land with a moving train substituting for a pirate ship.

While I’m not a purist and have enjoyed comic westerns in the past, The Lone Ranger has the unfortunate habit of mixing comedy elements with serious moments and never getting the overall tone right. In many ways it is a mess, sometimes enjoyable but too often lackluster. In addition, Verbinski always lets his movies run too long. He doesn’t have the focus to cut his movies into briskly moving adventures. Instead he lingers and drags out scenes that don’t warrant it and slows down the tempo to a crawl.

Sharing in the artistic vision of The Lone Ranger is Johnny Depp, who plays Tonto. By making Tonto the central character, keeping the Lone Ranger title is almost an inside joke.

Armie Hammer has the title role of John Reid, a prosecutor who is returning by train to his Texas home. The train is hijacked by outlaws who steal from the passengers, but whose main goal is to free their boss, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), a notorious killer who is scheduled for a hanging. Also locked up on the train is Tonto, who has his own plans for Cavendish that are spoiled by the escape.

John Reid joins his older brother Dan Reid (James Badge Dale), a Texas Ranger, on the posse hunting Cavendish, but things don’t turn out well. Left for dead, John is rescued by Tonto, finds a new white horse and dons the mask to become the Lone Ranger, determined to find truth and justice.

From there the film meanders along the trail with the duo meeting a bunch of colorful western characters including Helena Bonham Carter as a madam with an ivory leg that doubles as a gun when trouble arrives, and a corrupt businessman (Tom Wilkinson) with big plans.

Meanwhile, Tonto must continue to chip away at Reid’s naiveté and make him understand that sometimes doing the wrong thing for the right reason is the way to find justice.

Depp just loves to play oddly compelling characters that blend comedy with a well of sadness below the surface. While enjoying his performance and that of Fichtner, the veteran character actor who has a blast playing the evil Cavendish with a sly wink, the title character comes off a stale white bread.

Hammer is stuck in the middle as the straight man and while earning a few laughs, his character is most often the butt of the jokes because he is too naïve to see that fighting evil means getting a bit dirty. 

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