Review: The Lone Ranger

Poster for 2013 Western film The Lone Ranger

Genre: Western
Certificate: 12
UK Release Date: 9th August 2013
Runtime: 149 minutes
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writer: Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Helena Bonham Carter, James Badge Dale, William Fichtner
Synopsis: When a cannibalistic fugitive repeatedly evades capture, a lawman must don a mask to catch the elusive criminal.

The Lone Ranger is going to lose Disney an awful lot of money. Third quarter results released by Disney suggest that it could lead to a write-off between $160m-$190m, due to the film’s ballooned budget and colossal marketing spend. It has also been hammered by critics, with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus saying that it suffers from “a bland script, bloated length, and blaring action overkill.” And, to be fair, it is complete rubbish, albeit with a lot of ambition.

John Reid’s (Armie Hammer) return to his hometown is ruined by the escape of ruthless cannibal Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). When his brother (James Badge Dale) suffers at Cavendish’s hands, Reid teams up with Comanche Indian Tonto (Johnny Depp) to become a masked man of justice.

Whatever other problems The Lone Ranger has, the thing that derails it from the very start is that it has absolutely no idea what its target audience is. Firstly, it’s far too slow for kids to enjoy and features too many scenes of really quite brutal violence to ever actually be a family friendly blockbuster.

There are numerous scenes of injured characters vomiting copious amounts of blood and one moment of implied cannibalism, complete with squelchy, gooey sound effects. Whilst this violence is fairly common in 12A blockbusters these days, as shown by The Wolverine, it doesn’t work in a knockabout Western like The Lone Ranger wants to be.

It also doesn’t really appeal to adults because every potential moment of drama is underscored by zany, immature comedy. There are scenes of Armie Hammer being dragged through shit, people being hit on the head a lot and a horse getting drunk. These scenes might be funny in a kid’s movie, but this is supposed to be a mass appeal blockbuster.

Regardless of the convention for mainstream blockbuster films to really test audience endurance, there is no need for The Lone Ranger to be two and a half hour long. The story is flabby and the framing device of an old Tonto telling the story is wholly unnecessary. Free of the blockbuster formula, this could’ve been briefer, darker and a whole lot better.

It’s not all bad news though because The Lone Ranger really comes alive in its action sequences. Gore Verbinski marshalls these scenes expertly and, during the film’s thrilling climax, it’s hard not to immediately become a child when the reworking of The William Tell Overture kicks in. Unfortunately, too often, the film doesn’t know where to go between its action scenes and becomes completely inert.

The performances leave a lot to be desired too. Johnny Depp’s Tonto acts and looks as if Jack Sparrow has joined Kiss, whilst Armie Hammer’s title character is the most underwritten hero cinema has seen for a long time. Helena Bonham Carter also disappoints as a bland madam with a terrible Texas accent. Only William Fichtner excels as the menacing villain Butch Cavendish.

In some ways, The Lone Ranger should be admired for its risk taking approach to film making and devotion to practical effects. Unfortunately though, it would’ve been better off hiding behind the mask.

4/10

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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