This reimagining of a classic American legend comes close to wrangling the wild stallion but never fully lassos it. The train-jumping, mine-exploding action scenes may be some of this summer’s best — however, the film’s strained reach at campy comedy sends Johnny Depp over a cliff without a spirit guide to help him up.
3 Stars: Perfect for kids
John Reid (Armie Hammer) is an moralistic young lawyer returning to his hometown of Colby, Texas. On the train ride, he becomes embroiled with a serpentine criminal called Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), a harelipped, gold-toothed cannibal, known for literally eating his victim’s hearts. Cavendish is being transported to his execution in Colby, but covert arrangements have been made to help him escape.
Reid is forced to abandon the train along with Tonto (Johnny Depp), a Native American. Once part of the Camanche tribe, Tonto now sports a dead crow on his head. Tonto’s striking look was inspired by Kirby Sattler’s painting, “I Am Crow” and is proof of the wealth of creative talent that collaborated on this film. Unfortunately, the script wasn’t as successful as the art and costume design.
When Tonto saves Reid’s life, Reid is spiritually reborn as the Lone Ranger, black mask with bullet holes for eye-slits and all. Together, they must rescue Reid’s brother’s widow Rebecca (Ruth Wilson) and her son Danny (Bryant Prince) from Cavendish and his gang, and save the town from a sinister silver mine that exploits the local Native American tribe.
Armie Hammer gives a surprisingly heartfelt performance while Johnny Depp mugs his way through the entire movie. Depp is such a naturally talented actor, I have to think he was forced into his whacked performance by lousy dialogue riddled with half jokes.
The one place where the film really has fun is during the “Hell on Wheels” sequence, where the Lone Ranger and Tonto go inside a movable tent town that caters to the men building the railroad. They meet Red Harrington (Helena Bonham Carter) who’s a spitfire with an adorned, ivory peg-leg that’s been fitted with a rifle. Red is truly a kick in the pants.
Hans Zimmer does a fine job with the score, but the William Tell overture doesn’t play until hour two of this two-and-half hour movie. Its horns blare as if they were a triumphant afterthought.
Bottom line: The Lone Ranger has moments of thrill and maybe even moments of artistic genius, but overall, it simply doesn’t reach for the highest version of itself. I felt as if I waited in a long line at Disneyland to spend four minutes on the Lone Ranger Train Ride.
Run time is 2 hours, 29 minutes. During the credits we see one long shot of the Older Tonto carrying his suitcase through the desert, but there are no extra scenes.
Photo credit: Walt Disney Pictures