Flicks And The City’s Amon Warmann reviews western adventure The Lone Ranger (12A), starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer, out in UK cinemas on 9 August…
Director Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger gallops into cinemas this week, delivering lively and enjoyable blockbuster entertainment even if it lacks the freshness and swagger of his Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003).
The film begins with an awkward framing device: at a San Francisco fairground in 1933, an aged Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts his fantastical story to a curious child (Mason Cook). Moving 60 years earlier, we meet idealistic lawyer John Reid (Armie Hammer) as he returns to his hometown of Colby, Texas. He soon finds himself joining his lawman brother Dan (James Badge Dale) and his rangers on a hunt to apprehend the ruthless outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner).
Unfortunately for the Reid brothers, a betrayal ends in a brutal ambush, with Dan among the casualties. Left for dead in the desert, John Reid is eventually found by Tonto, who’s also seeking revenge on Cavendish. A partnership is born, with the two unlikely heroes working together to uncover the treachery that led to Dan’s death.
Long run-times aren’t a problem if a film can justify those precious minutes. But in the case of The Lone Ranger – which clocks in at a whopping 149 minutes – there are plenty of scenes that could have been trimmed to streamline the story. The countless opportunities the heroes and villains have to kill one another before the finale beggars belief. There’s also a strange tonal imbalance throughout; the cumbersome framing device is very ‘Disney-like’, but the film features two brutal massacres and many violent sequences that are anything but.
The core story arc – the journey of John Reid from bumbling lawyer to Lone Ranger – is easy enough to get invested in, though the continual repetition of Reid’s idealistic beliefs becomes tiresome, and his eventual change in attitude should occur earlier in the film.
Whilst the narrative is lacking, Verbinski & co deliver on the action front with some impressively staged, and beautifully shot, set pieces. An early chase scene sets the bar, but it’s the supercharged climactic train chase that ensures proceedings end on a high. It’s undoubtedly one of the finest sequences we’ve seen in a film this year, and once Hans Zimmer’s virtuoso, barnstorming update of William Tell’s classic overture kicks in, it’s almost enough to make you forget the film’s shortcomings.
Although he may be playing the titular character, Hammer is inevitably side-lined by Depp. That’s not an indictment of Hammer himself, who does a solid job with often clumsy material. Adding Tonto to his long list of oddball characters, Depp is comfortable and at times humorous in the role, even if his portrayal bears similarities to Captain Jack Sparrow. Elsewhere, Fichtner is suitably menacing as the cannibalistic Cavendish.
Any last words? The Lone Ranger is an entertaining but flawed blockbuster hamstrung by an overlong runtime and tonally chaotic narrative. However, there’s plenty to enjoy in Verbinski’s film and the franchise certainly has potential. If it’s a choice between a Lone Ranger sequel and another Pirates of the Caribbean instalment, the masked rider has my vote.