Combustible Celluloid
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With: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, James Badge Dale, Bryant Prince, Barry Pepper, Mason Cook, JD Cullum, Saginaw Grant, Harry Treadaway, James Frain, Joaqu’n Cosio
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Justin Haythe
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material
Running Time: 149
Date: 07/03/2013

The Lone Ranger (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

That Masked Man

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Ten years ago, director Gore Verbinski and star Johnny Depp created one of the all-time best summer blockbusters, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. It was funny, slick, bright, brisk, lighthearted, and exciting, or, in other words, all the things that this year's summer blockbusters are not. Now Verbinski and Depp have re-teamed for The Lone Ranger, an old reliable, masked cowboy hero that was created in 1933 for radio, and has since appeared on TV, movie serials, comic books, etc.

Interestingly, Verbinski and Depp already made a great Western hybrid two years ago with the animated Rango. But in moving from animation to live-action, their biggest error is that not considering the compactness of Rango, which was only 107 minutes. The Lone Ranger runs a whole 42 minutes longer. There's only one way to say it: it's a bit flabby.

Yet despite the extra padding, The Lone Ranger moves extremely well, capturing many of the qualities that made Pirates of the Caribbean so much fun.

The plot-heavy story involves a murderous silver thief (William Fichtner) with a scarred Jonah Hex-like face, an evil corporate railroad man (Tom Wilkinson), a dead brother and a widowed girl (Ruth Wilson), plus revenge and destiny. Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger is chiseled, handsome and heroic, but -- unlike most of this summer's other heroes -- self-aware and funny, as well. It seems as if he's really enjoying himself.

Depp conjures up a sympathetic Tonto, actually kind of a guru for the Lone Ranger here, with face paint and a bird headdress based on a painting called "I Am Crow." The actor adds a few layers of deadpan physical comedy to the role, much like his Buster Keaton-esque performance in Benny and Joon, and also recalling his earlier western, the masterpiece Dead Man. He creates a real inner world for this kooky, mystical character, which is more or less ruined when the movie goes into a lengthy flashback about Tonto's childhood.

Indeed, there's definitely a good smaller movie stuck inside this big movie, struggling to get out. It's all here: the "William Tell Overture" theme music, the beautifully photographed canyons, and a couple of exhilarating chase and fight sequences.

It is possible to make a Western epic, like the great Once Upon a Time in the West, but The Lone Ranger wasn't built for that kind of treatment. More like a TV episode, he should have entered, guns-a-blazing, saved the day, and rode off, quick as a hearty "Hi-ho Silver!"

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