‘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
‘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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org