There is a funny, brisk, action-packed romp trapped somewhere inside of The Lone Ranger. Unfortunately, director Gore Verbinski didn’t
realize this when assembling the spiritual successor to his Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy and the wonderfully bizarre Rango.
At an absurd two and a half hours, The Lone Ranger spends too much time on characters and plot points that bog down what could have
been a superb piece of light-hearted pop entertainment. Instead, the filmmakers tried for an epic.
That being said, there is still a lot to love.
First and foremost, Johnny Depp is outstanding. This performance is a piece of comedic genius. Depp has mastered this silly, slapstick
style. While it certainly shares the broad strokes of Captain Jack Sparrow, his Native American warrior Tonto is ultimately its own entity. He
may not be the title character, but this is Depp’s film all the way through.
Although there are plenty of good performances from the likes of Tom Wilkinson and William Fichtner, the screenplay doesn’t provide a
heck of a lot to work with outside of Tonto. Even Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger himself) feels secondary despite a very solid turn as the
The result is that the film soars when Depp is on screen, and flounders when he isn’t. Every time the story shifts to the Ranger’s romantic
interest or the railroad construction plot, we just want to get back to Depp.
That railroad plot also shares some suspicious similarities with writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio’s previous work, 1998’s The Mask of
Zorro. Better to plagiarize yourself than others, I guess.
Of course, the plot is really just wallpaper for Depp to perform his antics against.
Tonto even gets to star in the unnecessary interludes (featuring Depp in full old age makeup) imparting the tale to a young fan. He also has
the most elaborate development thanks to a visually stunning flashback sequence.
As we would expect from a Verbinski film, it looks great. His stylish visuals give the production a great boost without ever distracting from
The action sequences are also a lot of fun. The climactic train chase is an exhilarating barrage of wild stunts and wacky humor set to a rip-
roaring arrangement of the William Tell Overture.
The Lone Ranger is a mixed bag to say the least. There is a lot to like here in terms of its great sense of humor, Depp’s wonderful
performance and its masterful action sequences and production values.
But the film is unforgivably bloated with elements that lack inspiration. For every great moment (Tonto’s bird, that inexplicable white horse)
there is an equally unnecessary one. Why is Helena Bonham Carter even in this movie? Could the railway subplot be any more stock?
Could Ruth Wilson be any duller as the obligatory lover? Did those scenes between old Tonto and the kid add anything to the story?
This was a film in need of an overzealous editor if ever there was one. Of course, much of the blame has to go to the screenwriters. These
moments needed to be better developed to support a film of this scope. There is enough here to work wonderfully in a more streamlined
Still, this film is really damned funny and great to look at. It also closes strong with that wild train sequence and a perfect (and hilarious)
It’s just frustrating there are so many forgettable elements peppered in with these very memorable ones.
The Lone Ranger is deeply flawed, but undeniably fun. While I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, this is an amusing film and definitely one
fans of the genre should give a shot. It has guilty pleasure written all over it.
* * ½
(out of four)
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Written by: Justin Haythe and Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio
Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner,
Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cinematography by: Bojan Bazelli
Released: July 3, 2013; 149 Minutes