The Lone Ranger - DVD Review

'Disney-style slapstick and horse poo jokes awkwardly juxtaposed with the 19th Century slaughter of Native Americans and William Fichtner’s cannibalistic antagonist'

Within The Lone Ranger there are isolated glimpses of the fun that could have been on offer had the film been handled very, very differently. Gore Verbinski, with three of the four Pirates Of The Caribbean films imprinted on his CV, ably shows he can comfortably handle a family-friendly action sequence. The director bookends his film with a pair of runaway train chases, both of which offer fast-paced and well-crafted entertainment that feels fresh whilst paying homage to the heritage of both the Lone Ranger as a character and the Western genre. Verbinski is clearly in his element at these moments, which makes it all the more frustrating that the rest of his film is largely devoid of such fun.

Tonally, The Long Ranger is one big mess. Receiving a 12 certificate in the UK, this in actuality feels like an uncomfortable hotchpotch of PG and 15 elements. So we get Disney-style slapstick and horse poo jokes awkwardly juxtaposed with the 19th Century slaughter of Native Americans and William Fichtner’s cannibalistic antagonist Butch Cavendish, making this a distracting watch to which you’ll feel constantly unsure of how Verbinski intended you to react.

The imbalance extends to the cast, with Armie Hammer’s John Reid, alias the titular lawman, constantly playing second fiddle to Johnny Depp’s Tonto. It’s not that Hammer’s performance is poor - he’s regularly quite entertaining and fits the role aptly - just that Depp is clearly the star here in a role which by definition should be the supporting one to the title character. Depp’s performance frequently feels like Jack Sparrow with a painted face and a bird on his head, giving a lingering sense of déjà vu to a considerable portion of the film’s many Tonto-centric scenes. Despite being populated with solid names the support is a real mixed bag, with some being used to great effect (Fichtner, even if his character is misjudged), others wasted in underwritten parts (Barry Pepper, Helena Bonham Carter) and others still disappointingly bland (Tom Wilkinson, putting in minimal effort).

What stops The Lone Ranger from being an enjoyable experience most of all however is its sheer length. At nearly two-and-a-half hours this is a real slog, never managing to justify its mammoth running time with a number of scenes which could easily have been either shortened or excised completely. Verbinski’s penchant for making his films too long is a hangover from the Pirates franchise, and until he either learns how to edit his films or works with someone who forces him to do so, the fun he’s capable of creating will always be smothered by the unnecessarily fatiguing cinematic marathons he continues to put out.

One of the final moments of The Lone Ranger sees Hammer at last strike the well-known image of the character rearing up on his white steed and crying “Hi-yo, Silver! Away!”, after which Depp declares: “Don’t ever do that again!” It’s an ironic ending to an underwhelming film: the joke, riffing on the Lone Ranger’s familiar TV incarnation, is now almost certainly prophetic of the character’s foreseeable future on the big screen.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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