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Originally published July 2, 2013 at 12:09 AM | Page modified July 2, 2013 at 1:25 AM

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‘The Lone Ranger’: a ho-hum hi-yo Silver

The William Tell Overture is, sadly, one of the highlights of the big-budget not-quite-action, not-quite-comedy picture “The Lone Ranger,” starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 2 stars

‘The Lone Ranger,’ with Armie Hammer, Johnny Depp, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter. Directed by Gore Verbinski, from a screenplay by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. 149 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material. Several theaters.

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In “The Lone Ranger,” Johnny Depp’s Tonto makeup is thick white with black tearlike streaks; it’s caked and creased, like a painted canvas rolled up for decades and then unfurled. And it’s, unfortunately, one of the most compelling elements of Gore Verbinski’s bloated, strangely off-balance movie, which has a problem common to big-budget blockbusters: It’s not quite funny enough to be a comedy, nor quite exciting enough to be an action film — until the last 20 minutes or so, when it’s a little too late.

Six years in the making due to long-running schedule conflicts and financial problems, “The Lone Ranger” stars Armie Hammer (who played the handsome Winklevoss twins in “The Social Network”) as the masked avenger alongside Depp’s taciturn Tonto, a Native American warrior. The Lone Ranger is formerly John Reid, an absurdly good-looking attorney in the 1860s West. The story, told through a framework of mysterious flashbacks (in which Tonto is an elderly mannequin in a Wild West exhibit at a 1933 carnival), follows Reid’s first meeting with Tonto, his encounter with vigilante violence and his transformation into a masked hero for justice.

Laden with galloping horses, gleaming pistols, bustling saloons, vintage trains and people dangling from said trains, “The Lone Ranger” should be a lot livelier than it is. Hammer is charming but bland, and Depp, hidden behind a mask of makeup, mostly gives Tonto a deadpan dignity; their often rote interactions don’t justify the film’s two-and-a-half-hour running time. The picture perks up when Helena Bonham Carter turns up, playing a one-legged madam with a very unusual talent for shooting (now that I think of it, maybe all movies should feature Bonham Carter as a one-legged madam), but just as we get used to her silky, amused Old West accent, she vanishes. Tom Wilkinson and William Fichtner scowl a lot, and the horse who’ll eventually be named Silver (who’s almost as handsome as Hammer) gets a drinking scene. Who could blame him?

The train action gets more impressive toward the end, and it’s always a pleasure to hear the William Tell Overture — but it deserves a better movie. As does that makeup, and that madam; perhaps another day.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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