The Lone Ranger

Directed By: Gore Verbinski

Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, Ruth Wilson, James Badge Dale, and Helena Bonham Carter

Ten years ago this coming Tuesday, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was born.  Director Gore Verbinski and star Johnny Depp proved a winning combination and put swashbuckling action back in style at that time.  Now some ten years later, Verbinski and Depp are back together to see if they can recreate the fun formula that worked so well in the original Pirates trilogy.  They're now focused on making one good shoot 'em up movie.  This Fourth of July holiday week, they're getting patriotic by delving into the classic tales of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, two iconic fictional outlaws that have graced radios, televisions, and cinemas over the years.

Quoting John Locke's "Two Treatises of Government" and believing in an idealistic notion of justice, Texas district attorney John Reid (Armie Hammer) is aboard a train with two arrestees — murderer Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and Comanche Indian Tonto (Depp).  Reid is on his way to Colby where these two prisoners will get the justice they deserve.  Those plans seriously change when Cavendish gets his hands on a gun planted for him on the train and several bandits arrive to rescue him.  Before Cavendish escapes, he has an encounter with Tonto and Reid.  Tonto tries to kill him, but Reid prevents that from happening given his sentimental notions of justice.

After Cavendish's deadly escape and the eventual crash of the train, Reid arrests Tonto and takes him back to Colby.  There, the Comanche is taken before Transcontinental Railroad tycoon Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson) and Texas Ranger Danny Reid (James Badge Dale), John's brother.  They lock Tonto up, but they're genuinely more interested in recapturing Cavendish.  Danny decides to deputize John as a Texas Ranger and ride into the desert with him and the other rangers to go get that murdering maniac.  Before John goes with them, he goes to meet Rebecca (Ruth Wilson), the woman he loves who also happens to be married to his brother Danny.

The eight rangers ride into the desert and find themselves ambushed by Cavendish and his men.  All eight rangers are shot and left for dead.  Cavendish takes particularly sadistic measures with Danny by cutting out his heart.  Tonto, who has somehow escaped prison, finds the rangers and buries them.  With the help of one smart white horse, Tonto soon realizes that only seven of the rangers are dead.  John Reid lives, and he wants to personally deliver justice to Butch Cavendish.  To do so, the man to whom Tonto refers as Kemosabe, this spirit walker who's been to the other side and now can't be killed in battle, must perpetuate the belief that he is dead.  Taking up a mask and being dubbed "the Lone Ranger", Reid rides out with his partner Tonto to hunt down Cavendish.

If anything, Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger is a bipolar movie.  The first half of this two and a half hour affair just sucks.  The second half is fairly solid entertainment for a holiday week like this.  This flick is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  The first half is a strange cousin to the Pirates franchise that is tonally awkward and devoid of any entertainment value.  It has all the bells and whistles of a blockbuster but no heart or humor.  It's not a fun film at first.  In the second half of The Lone Ranger, however, Verbinski and his cast find their groove.  It becomes the lighthearted, energetic affair it needs to be to have some real old-fashioned fun.  The problem is that it's too late at this point.  After an hour of poor filmmaking, you'll be disinterested in what happens next.

In this 2013 interpretation of The Lone Ranger, Tonto is no longer a sidekick.  He's got top billing.  With Johnny Depp portraying the crafty Comanche, this comes as no surprise.  The only problem is that the Johnny Depp we know and love is not unleashed during the first half of the film.  He's primarily this aloof character that doesn't talk too much and throws around one too many bird seeds.  As his partner and titular star the Lone Ranger, Armie Hammer takes quite a while to warm up in his role as well.  He's a boring stiff but eventually adds some flavor to his performance as the lone lawman fighting against "progress".  The Social Network and J. Edgar star doesn't demonstrate any leading man potential until the film's final act.

Unlike the Pirates franchise, we don't have a particularly colorful villain or a strong female lead.  William Fichtner is no Geoffrey Rush.  He doesn't offer wit or charm.  He's just a brute antagonist. To an extent, that's what is necessary for a film like The Lone Ranger.  It's a western, so you can't have crazy, over-the-top pirates.  That doesn't mean that we couldn't have had a more interesting villain.  For her part as Rebecca Reid, Ruth Wilson is your typical, boring damsel in distress.  Unlike an actress like Keira Knightley, she offers very little in terms of depth.  She could have really capitalized on her complex relationships with both of the Reid brothers.  She brings nothing to the table as the movie's female lead.

I can't say that spending your hard-earned money on a ticket for The Lone Ranger is a good trade.  Tonto talks about Wendigo and the fact that nature is out of balance throughout the story.  The same thing can be said about the film itself.  Regardless of the fact that it recovers during its second act, the first half is pretty awful.  There's no overcoming this reality.  It's simply not a good movie on the whole, and I can't endorse it.  The Lone Ranger gets a 0.09% rating.  For old times, have a few rum and cokes with this one.