Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Lone Ranger Movie Review

Johnny Depp (r) stars in The Lone Ranger

What's With the Mask?

For the first hour of what turns out to be a 149-minute marathon, director Gore Verbinski provides a compelling recreation of The Lone Ranger. Good back story, smart humor and a thrilling train heist set the table for what should have been a glorious ride through the Wild Wild West (pun intended.) Unfortunately, Verbinski ultimately fails to achieve his primary goal... to recreate the magic (and subsequent box office success) of The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, leaving The Lone Ranger to fend for itself in hostile territory.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: From producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski, the filmmaking team behind the blockbuster "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, comes Disney/ Jerry Bruckheimer Films' "The Lone Ranger," a thrilling adventure infused with action and humor, in which the famed masked hero is brought to life through new eyes. Native American spirit warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice-taking the audience on a runaway train of epic surprises and humorous friction as the two unlikely heroes must learn to work together and fight against greed and corruption.

What’s Best: Even as a man of few words, Depp delights as an effective (yet controversial) Tonto. Few in the business match Depp's ability to capture an audience with a mere glance or smirk. From the moment he steps "on stage" (The Noble Savage in his Natural Habitat) in Oscar-worthy makeup, Depp reminds us of why he remains part of Hollywood's elite. While I could do without the dead crow atop his character's head, Depp even manages to make a one-sided conversation with a horse interesting.

Hammer has his moments too (I love his "Catch" exchange with a soon-to-be-distraught child on a train) but never seems to grow into "the mask." I thought he was an odd choice to begin with; but you can't deny his matinee idol good looks and boyish charm... Although I think he's better suited to play cocksure characters like he did so effectively in The Social Network. Hammer's subtle chemistry with Depp keeps things afloat, even as The Lone Ranger drowns in unnecessary violence towards its long and winding end.

What’s Not: Ah the end... If only it came sooner. Verbinski loses sight of what he wants to convey, opting to go back and forth and around with irksome frequency. His main hero (the Lone Ranger) plays second fiddle to the director's favorite star... so much so, that he actually gets captured at least half a dozen times. It's hard to root for a hero that's so vanilla: Who actually gives up an opportunity to avenge his own brother's gruesome murder, so he can provide "justice for all?"

As for the movie itself, outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) says it best, 'We've been here before, haven't we?' Verbinski and writers Ted Elliott, Justin Haythe & Terry Rossio kill off hundreds of people with utter disregard and randomness. Note to Hollywood: Do you get extra points for showing mass killings or what? Enough already. Villains Tom Wilkinson and Barry Pepper are colorless, predictable (and in Pepper's case) laughable. Please tell me the same folks who did Depp's makeup didn't saddle Pepper with a bad perm and ridiculous Union dress.

Best Line: Hammer's Ranger admits, 'I haven't shot a gun in nine years,' to which Tonto replies, 'You might want to keep that to yourself Ke-mo sah-bee." It's one of many jokes delivered with deadpan sincerity, but I laughed all the same. For me however, the best line goes to Reid's older brother (the always good James Badge Dale) 'I hereby deputize you a Texas Ranger. I (just) can't help you with your clothes.'

Overall: "Bad trade" could just as easily mean "bad movie," but Depp & Hammer do enough to keep things interesting. The film's first hour is actually very entertaining, before giving way to an inexplicably long (and dull) middle, followed by a frantic finale that many in our screening audience missed out on (literally dozens of folks left before it was over.) It's obvious that the team of Bruckheimer, Verbinski and Disney were hoping for another Pirates franchise; but you have to get the first one right, before you start counting sequels. This Lone Ranger has its moments, but $250 million has to buy you magic, not just moments.