The Lone Ranger
I’m not sure what Johnny Depp is doing playing an American Indian - despite his public suggestions that he has such blood in his lineage - but he’s a damn funny one. Unfortunately, he’s pretty much the only actor worth watching in Disney’s retelling of "The Lone Ranger," out early for the Fourth of July. The film is bloated, clocking in at 2.5 hours and filling most of that time with a cacophony of train crashes and lackluster dialogue (punctuated by spastic hilarity). But it’s still fun, even if it is a big hot mess.
The story is lightly retold from its advent in the ’50s on television; here, the Lone Ranger John (Arnie Hammer) returns to the Wild West (read: Texas) from law school to be reunited with his big brother Dan (James Badge Dale), who has spent the intervening time as a Texas Ranger fighting criminals from horseback and marrying pretty Rebecca (Ruth Wilson). Headed back by train (how else?) John encounters the ne’er do well Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and Comanche Tonto (Depp), both on their way to be executed for... some sort of nastiness we never find out about.
It takes no time at all for the action to commence, starting with a pulse-stirring breakout from the train, followed by 140 minutes of chase sequences, pounding music and horses. In a desperate attempt to bring the escaped Cavendish to justice, the Reid brothers run directly into an ambush (just one of the countless plot points easily foreseen) where Dan is killed viciously by the outlaw. Tonto appears, also on the Cavendish trail, but he’s largely unimpressed by the gun-shy councilor until Silver - a horse with a penchant for the unusual - chooses John as a "spirit warrior." Together, the Lone Ranger and his Comanche counterpart set out to right wrongs.
The pulse of the film is pure Gore Verbinski, who along with Depp imbues the film with the sensibilities of "Pirates of the Caribbean," their better known prior outing. A complex, writhing plot, peppered with self-knowing humor and terrific instincts for throwing in some mindless action when the plot (or dialogue) grows stale, is de rigueur for a Verbinski/Depp film. "The Lone Ranger" doesn’t disappoint there, but aside from an entertaining cameo by Helena Bonham Carter and serviceable portrayals by Tom Wilkinson and Finchtner, the surrounding cast lacks the style of Pirates’ ensemble. And while the scenic design is beautiful and the effects eye-popping, they can’t make up for a plot that careens from 1950s television homage to CGI mayhem without regard for character - unfortunately, the titular character gets the shortest end of that stick.
But these shortcomings may be of minor consequence - or at least they would be, had Verbinski pared the running time to someone more palatable to the human bladder. It’s still a wild ride, even if it is a bit of a mess.