Film review: The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger

(M) ***

Director: Gore Verbinski.

Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter.

RUN through the checklist of things you need in a Lone Ranger reboot and this film has them all - the William Tell Overture, silver bullets, "hi ho, Silver, away!", a sidekick named Tonto, the black mask... it's all here.

The origin story is relatively in tact as well. A team of rangers is ambushed by the evil Butch Cavendish and his men, leaving only one survivor, who is nursed back to health by Tonto, and they decide to become wild west crimefighters.

Then it's out on to the trail again to hunt for Cavendish, who has wronged both the Masked Man and his Native American wingman, and who is also tied up in a bullethole-ridden plot about silver mines and railway expansion.

Those plotholes are the biggest flaw of this incarnation of The Lone Ranger - the plot suddenly veers off the tracks, characters turn up where you least expect them, and the movie doesn't seem to hold up to any kind of narrative logic.

There is also an awkward framing device (the now-cliched 'old man telling a story' one) that proves unnecessary and disruptive. Once the film overcomes it's odd start, it really hits its stride, only losing its rhythm when the plot loses its way.

It's unfortunate, because there is a certain amount of charm in Verbinski's wacky wild west vision which mostly comes down to the pairing of Hammer and Depp.

Hammer isn't fantastic as the Ranger but nor is he terrible - he's more of a pleasant vanilla alongside the flavoursome performance of Depp as Tonto, who is another memorable clown-hero to go with Depp's recent blockbuster figureheads Jack Sparrow and The Mad Hatter.

Of course, Verbinski's vision is a big budget extravaganza, filled with plenty of explosions, CG-assisted stunts, and crowd-pleasing laughs.

But surprisingly, it also has a decent amount of blood. And in Fichtner's cannibalistic cowboy Cavendish, it has a genuinely and disturbingly frightening villain. Not that the film is bathed in claret, Sam Peckinpah-style, but leave the little ones at home, just in case.

This Texan grit does seem at odds with the intermittent bursts of wacky humour that pepper the film. A few jokes fall flat, including a bizarre interlude involving the most psychotic rabbit since Monty Python & The Holy Grail, as they ramp up a weirdness that's at odds with the body count and seriousness of The Lone Ranger's quest. The levity is appreciated, but sometimes it feels like it has wandered in from a parallel version of the film that was playing for nothing but absurd laughs.

You really want to love The Lone Ranger because it has a fair bit going for it, but it does let you down repeatedly. If you can just try to embrace the easy-going spectacle of it all and its general respect for the Lone Ranger legacy, you'll probably enjoy it.

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