The Lone Ranger

John Reid (Armie Hammer) is on a train returning to Colby, Texas in 1869.  Reid is the new district attorney for the territory that includes his home town of Colby.  Also in town is his brother Dan (James Badge Dale), Dan’s wife Rebecca (Ruth Wilson) and their young son.  Also on the train is dangerous outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) who is being transported in chains to Colby to be hanged.  Chained with Cavendish is a Comanche Indian named Tonto (Johnny Depp).  When Cavendish’s gang rides up to and boards the train, Reid sees them and approaches the car where the prisoners are being held.  Cavendish has a gun he pulled out from under a loose floor board and has killed his guards and is about to kill Tonto when Reid busts down the door with an axe.  He stops Tonto from being killed but winds up chained to him after losing his gun.  Cavendish’s men have killed the train’s operators and chained the throttle wide open.  At the train station is Dan Reid and a group of Texas Rangers waiting to take Cavendish into custody.  Cavendish escapes on a horse with his men and the train crashes, throwing John Reid and Tonto to the ground and nearly crushing them under the engine.  John is deputized by Dan and joins the Rangers on a hunt for Cavendish.  While riding through a canyon, the Rangers are ambushed and all are killed.  Cavendish has a grudge with Dan Reid and cuts his heart out of his chest as he’s dying and eats it.  John, who has been shot and is near death, awakes long enough to see the grizzly scene then passes out again.  Tonto comes upon the bodies and buries them but John is still alive.  A white horse, considered sacred by the Native Americans, walks up and Tonto begins speaking with him.  The horse tells Tonto that John is a spirit walker and can aid him in his quest to avenge the men who massacred his people when Tonto was a boy.  Despite his doubts, Tonto helps John recover and gives him a bandana worn by his brother that has two holes in it from the bullets that killed him.  Tonto says this is a sign that he should wear it as a mask as it will strike fear in the hearts of outlaws.  Meanwhile, railroad company representative Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson), who has always been attracted to Dan’s wife Rebecca, has announced that all treaties with the Comanche would be considered null and void since the tribe had been blamed for attacks on nearby settlements.   This means the army, led by Captain Jay Fuller (Barry Pepper) will soon launch an all-out war on the Native Americans to make way for the railroad.
 
Sounds a bit confusing, doesn’t it?  Keeping track of the story while watching “The Lone Ranger” wasn’t that easy.  The movie is chock full of minor diversions, subplots, asides, blind alleys, MacGuffins and much more.  That’s understandable when considering the team that put the film together, director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, is the same responsible for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films.  While I liked the first three installments of that series (I haven’t seen the fourth) they were certainly jam packed with extra business that didn’t necessarily move the story along.  Many critics found those films to be too messy and crammed with unneeded bits of business.  While that’s true, those bits of business were at least, in my opinion, entertaining.   In “The Lone Ranger” it just feels like filler.  Knowing the tortured history of the making of the film, with Disney stepping in and shutting down production due to cost overruns and Bruckheimer, Verbinski, Hammer and Depp all giving up 20 percent of their salaries to help defray costs, it’s understandable that the final product would come out as a bit of a mess.
 
The behind-the-scenes shenanigans aside, what happens on screen is the real test and “The Lone Ranger” is about as middling as a summer blockbuster gets.  While the landscapes and cinematography are sometimes breathtaking, the jumbled story and mostly bland performances suck most of the fun out of the film.  While Armie Hammer is a good looking young actor, he’s also a fairly generic one as well.  The character of John Reid is written as a milquetoast city boy who is largely out of his element in a Wild West frontier town and is thrust into the role of hero.  While he’s very good at the more foppish parts of his role, when it’s time for him to man up the transformation is rather lengthy and not very plausible.  For instance, he says he hasn’t fired a gun in nine years but suddenly becomes a crack shot.  He gives up on being a masked hero at least twice during the film and frequently comes off as a bit of a whiner.  William Fichtner who plays the outlaw Butch Cavendish, is far better as his role is written with some real character traits.  Granted, they are sick and twisted, but at least these make him interesting while the Lone Ranger is rather dull.  Meanwhile, Johnny Depp plays Tonto with the kind of eccentricities we come to expect from him:  He feeds the dead bird that’s part of his head dress.  He speaks to horses.  He creates Indian customs that don’t exist to take advantage of his new companion.  While it’s the usual Depp shtick, he does it very well.  Most of the life the film has comes from Tonto.  The audience wonders what he will do next because we’re never quite sure and that can’t be said for any other character.
 
The story, which involves outlaw gangs, corrupt railroad executives, abused Native Americans and secret treasure takes forever to play out and make any sense.  Characters are finally connected to the story very late in the film’s two hour 29 minute running time.  These connections don’t really make much sense and just add to the confusion of the narrative.  The film has some spectacular action scenes, many enhanced with CGI, which give the audience some thrills from time to time but can’t make up for the bloated and convoluted story.  You can’t fault the filmmakers for trying to give the audience a summer spectacle; but they have thrown far too much at the screen hoping for something to stick and it rarely does.
 
“The Lone Ranger” is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material.  Several people are shown being shot but there isn’t much in the way of blood.  The exception to that is after Cavendish eats Dan Reid’s heart and he holds up a bloody hand for someone to give him a towel to clean up.  The gutting of that character is suggested with sound effects and the reactions of the other outlaws.  There are a couple of train wrecks that might disturb younger viewers.  The suggestive material is the inside of a saloon with several busty prostitutes on display.  There is also some lusting over the artificial leg of the madam (don’t ask).  Foul language is mild and widely scattered.
 
Projections for the cost of the film run between $215-million and $250-million dollars.  There was probably at least another $75-million in promotion prior to the film’s release plus the interest on the money that was borrowed to make the movie.  All told, “The Lone Ranger” will probably need to gross $1-billion worldwide to be considered a success.  After a five day holiday weekend total gross of less than $50-million, I guarantee that will not happen.  Don’t look for any more movies in what was supposed to be a Lone Ranger trilogy, don’t look for Gore Verbinski to be given many more giant summer tent pole movies and the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film due in 2015 could be in danger.  This is what happens when you turn what should have been a 90-minute to two hour film into a two and a half hour catastrophe.  While “The Lone Ranger” isn’t completely terrible it isn’t nearly as good as it should have been.
 
“The Lone Ranger” gets three guitars but only due to Depp and Fichtner’s performances.
 
A new week means new movies and your opportunity to select the next film I review.
 
The Bling Ring—Celebrities are being robbed and the thieves responsible are not who you think.  They are a bunch of teenagers obsessed with fashion and celebrity that burglarize celebrities’ homes in Los Angeles. Tracking their targets' whereabouts online, they break-in and steal their designer clothes and possessions.  Based on a true story.
 
Grown Ups 2—The all-star comedy cast from Grown Ups returns (with some exciting new additions) for more summertime laughs. Lenny (Adam Sandler) has relocated his family back to the small town where he and his friends grew up. This time around, the grown ups are the ones learning lessons from their kids on a day notoriously full of surprises: the last day of school.
 
The Kings of Summer—Three teenage boys, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. Free from their parents’ rules, their idyllic summer quickly becomes a test of friendship as each boy learns to appreciate the fact that family - whether it is the one you’re born into or the one you create – is something you can't run away from.
 
Pacific Rim—When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanity's resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked together and with the robot.
 
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice in theatres and On Demand.
 
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
 
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