At the Movies: The Lone Ranger

“The Lone Ranger” is a bloated, uneven mess with a charismatic cast, lovely visuals and nifty action pieces.

In other words, what we’ve come to expect from the team of Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski.

Depp stars as Tonto, a  Comanche indian who, as the film begins, is an old man working as an exhibit in a Wild West show circa 1933. A young boy (Mason Cook) dressed in cowboy suit and mask walks into the tent and Tonto begins to tell the story of the original masked lawman.

And right off the bat we have a problem. This structure and the frequent returns to it add nothing to the story other than make the runtime go longer. Maybe Verbinski was hoping to evoke memories of “Little Big Man” or maybe Depp just wanted to put on old-man makeup. Either way the scenes are a needless distraction.

l_1210819_292511d1The story then shifts to 1869 and a train bound for the frontier town of Colby, Texas. Tonto is in chains alongside dastardly outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). Also on board is John Reid (Armie Hammer) a morally upright big city lawyer (I feel obligated to point out the morally upright part since we’re dealing with a lawyer) headed home.

Cavendish’s men attack the train and the outlaw escapes. A posse of Texas Rangers led by John’s brother Dan (James Badge Dale) go in pursuit. The Rangers are shot in an ambush and left for dead.

Tonto shows up (with no explanation of how he escape the authorities) and begins to bury the slain lawmen. A white horse shows up at John’s grave and refuses to budge. It turns out John’s not dead after all, and Tonto takes it as a sign that John is a supernatural being sent to join Tonto in his quest to kill Cavendish.

“The Lone Ranger” has a lot more going on but neither you nor I want this to go on as long as the movie (which clocks in around 2.5 hours). This movie appears to be taking a beating by most critics but I didn’t think it was that bad. If you enjoyed the previous Depp/Verbinski collaboration (“The Pirates of the Caribbean” series) this is along the same lines, although Tonto isn’t as charming as Jack Sparrow.

In addition to the two leads, the film boasts a fine cast including Tom Wilkinson as the evil railroad tycoon, Ruth Wilson as the love interest/damsel in distress, Barry Pepper as a Calvary officer looking a lot like General George Custer, and Helena Bonham Carter (who’s apparently contractually obligated to appear in every other Johnny Depp movie) as a madam armed with a lethal artificial leg.

Visually the film features lovely desert vistas and some spectacular action scenes. It all ends in an over-the-top train sequence that I’m confident makes absolutely no sense. I couldn’t keep track of who was on what train and what train was on what track and what cars were being uncoupled from what train and so on. I doubt anyone working on the film could tell you either.

Finally, if you’re wondering if you need to stay through the credits, you don’t. The film ends with old Tonto walking off into the desert as the credits roll. He walks and walks but nothing more happens. And yes, I sat through roughly 10 minutes of credits to confirm that for you. You’re welcome.

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