Review: The Lone Ranger / Cert: 12A / Director: Gore Verbinski / Screenplay: Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio / Starring: Armie Hammer, Johnny Depp, William Fichtner, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson / Release Date: August 9th
Today’s Generation Xbox probably won’t recall The Lone Ranger, a once-popular radio and television character. They might have heard the rally cry ‘Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!’ or know the name ‘Tonto’, but that’s all a wild stab in the cultural dark.
The film begins with a shot of an under-construction Golden Gate Bridge. Panning slowly to a fairground, an aged Tonto (Depp) stands dead still, like one of those statues outside dime stores and gas stations across the US. The expansion of America had a very heavy cost – mass genocide and the deliberate stifling of Native American culture.
Verbinski and his writers have playfully put Tonto in charge of the yarn and this tact mushes together the John Ford maxim about printing the legend instead of the facts. The subversive aspects of The Lone Ranger place it firmly alongside the likes of Arthur Penn’s revisionist Little Big Man. In both films, by total design, General Custer turns up as an idiotic figure.
Tonto is the heart and weirdy beardy soul of the movie and through his words and the camera’s eye we witness the often banal cruelty and rampant viciousness of the Old West. The Lone Ranger is a dark picture, a charge that Verbinski in interviews appears to deny. Whilst it is not exactly explicit, violence is not ignored or casually tossed aside.
Armie Hammer’s ‘hero’ – as told by Tonto – is another off-kilter portrayal. He arrives as a handsome, clean-shaven civilised man from Back East. He covets his brother’s wife and becomes a tireless avenger, transformed by his need for retribution. Again, Verbinski takes a traditional white-hatted hero and makes him less heroic than would seem on the surface of things. The central pairing is no celebration of heroism, more a gonzo iteration of the buddy cop formula.
Much has been made of the 149-minutes running time, but the movie zips along and closely echoes old serial formats with an episodic narrative that has plenty of cliffhangers. An incredible finale, set aboard a hurtling train, is nothing short of breath-taking and Hans Zimmer’s reworking of the William Tell Overture lends it a galloping pace.
Although nowhere near as crackpot as Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo, Verbinski packs his movie with plenty of oddities. Just like his last western – the animated feature Rango – the director’s quirky eye lends The Lone Ranger a humorous tone of possibly acquired taste. It’s a world where horses hide in trees, a brothel keeper packs a pistol in her tattooed ivory leg and the villain is a hare-lipped cannibal.
Expected Rating: 5 out of 10