Film Review: “The Lone Ranger”

“The Lone Ranger” is an unwieldy mess of wandering motivations and poorly defined plot points.


Review by David Feltman

“What’s with the mask?”

Trying to breathe new life into beloved but forgotten franchises sounds good on paper, but seems doomed in practice. Promising projects like “The Green Hornet” and “John Carter” have only managed to bury anything loveable about their source materials. Likewise, while Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski attempt to re-skin the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films in cowboy hats, “The Lone Ranger” fails to grasp the spirit of the original radio/TV show.

With the “Pirates” films, Depp and Verbinski stood firmly on the shoulders of Errol Flynn style swashbuckling serials, but the duo scrambles to capture the spark of the old west bullet operas in “The Lone Ranger.” To compensate, Verbinski simply throws one reference after another at the screen, hoping to cover up the deficit of personality. “The Lone Ranger” steals scenes from silent to spaghetti westerns, switching from Buster Keaton train stunts to “El Topo” treks through the desert. The film also confuses kookiness for cleverness, trotting out a surreal cast that includes a transvestite henchman, a one-legged madam of a hell-on-wheels brothel and a host of crazy carnivorous bunny rabbits. And even these kooky characters aren’t original, each one lifting from “Dead Man,” “Planet Terror” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” respectively.

Clocking in at nearly three hours, “The Lone Ranger” is an unwieldy mess of wandering motivations and poorly defined plot points. Verbinski tries to disseminate the story through a Museum of Natural History framing device that only proves to be ridiculous and distracting. It’s hard to get invested in the story when the big bad is just as generic as his henchmen and the family he terrorizes only exist on screen to be victimized. Depp’s standard weirdo shtick is old hat, but Armie Hammer’s adept comic timing makes him surprisingly entertaining as the titular ranger. But Hammer’s performance isn’t enough to save the movie. “The Lone Ranger” is a slogging pastiche filled with missed opportunities.

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