The Lone Ranger started off as a radio play in America in 1933. Since then, he has become a cultural touchstone within contemporary Americana, epitomising the spirit of freedom, justice and courage that has become synonymous with the American Dream. It is perhaps equally fitting then this current incarnation represents the bilious trite, commercially driven vacuity that is representative of contemporary mainstream Hollywood. OK, so I’ve been overly harsh, but the need for such over-zealousness from the outset is sadly critical to counteract any sense that you might actually go and see this film.
Yet another Hollywood ˜origin’ story, the film’s premise is told through an aging Tonto (Johnny Depp) conversing with the obligatory small, brown-eyed boy that Disney films seem to wheel out with alarming regularity. I was hoping that Johnny Depp in old man prosthetic was perhaps an ironic metaphor for the withered, decrepit performance of his own pastiche-self, but alas that is to credit the film-makers with too much wit. So, an aging Tonto recounts the tale of how The Lone Ranger came to be. John Reid (Armie Hammer) is a city lawyer coming back to his hometown (and to his sweetheart who just so happened has married this brother), but gets caught up in a train robbery, where he first meets Tonto. The robbery, it transpires is an attempt to rescue Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner “ who now is the seemingly go-to guy for snarling over-the-top pantomime villainy). Butch is chased down by Dan Reid (John’s brother), but is then killed, and his heart is then cut and eaten by Butch. Yes you did read that right; he cuts out his heart and he eats it, in a Disney film, that kids will see. Totally incredible.
Having witnessed some barbarism, the surprisingly calm John Reid then becomes the Lone Ranger in an attempt to get vengeance for his brother, but still manages to crack terrible jokes and seem completely unaffected at having seen his brother served up for lunch. All the while, other plot narratives involve the rail road being built across America by a greedy corporate evil bigwig, the native Indians being hoodwinked into starting a phony war, Helena Bonham-Carter is a one-legged whorehouse pimp, and some other things happen as well. I lost interest after a while to be honest. He eats his heart??!
Johnny Depp, who plays Jack Sparrow playing Tonto, is painfully substandard. His one-dimensionality is becoming all too obvious these days, and shall we just ignore the fact that he’s playing a native Indian, which in effect is blacking up “ for a Disney film. He eats his heart?! Armie Hammer looks awkward throughout, as if he saw the final film playing out in his head as it unfolds.
The plot is in some ways rather confusing and nonsensical, trying to make profound statements about mass genocide, the early corporatisation of America and Native American spirituality, but in many otherwise, stupidly predictable and simple, and manages to take those complex themes and turn them into offensive tropes. The ˜climatic’ finale involving trains, ladders and whole lot of wonky CGI is a literal train wreck, at least I think that’s what they were trying to do anyway, it’s not very clear what’s going on at all really what with the blurry scenes (and that was watching it in 2D), the farcical set ups and endless non sequiturs. The only upside is that the famous Lone Ranger music suddenly pipes up which at least made me look up.
There are one or two other minor pluses. James Badge Dale as Dan Reid showed why he is every bit the next Bill Paxton (yes, that is meant as a compliment), and there are some stunning landscape scenes of the American Wild West. But other than that, the film is a broken detritus-filled kaleidoscope of wooden acting, painful dialogue, shockingly bad CGI and numb body parts. He blacks up? He eats his heart!?