The Lone Ranger (2013) Directed by Gore Verbinski

So here's a movie that I actually really enjoyed, even though I am aware that it got universally slagged and it should not be the kind of film I like. There's just enough of Disney fairytale in The Lone Ranger to make it great. Johnny Depp is basically just doing yet another variation on his own Edward Scissor hand – but now as a native American. Everything is over the top from plot to sets and the scope of the movie. And somehow this makes it more watchable than many other movies I have seen recently.

It has been a bit of a movie slump. I have solo-watched some rather disappointing efforts: Don Jon (2013) was simply appalling, although I liked that it was trying to talk about porn, sex addiction and the difficulty of connecting with another human being. It just didn't do any of it well, even though Julianne Moore and Scarlett Johansson are in the picture. I also watched Thanks For Sharing (2012) because it stars Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow. It was yet another movie about sex addiction. It gets points for putting breast cancer on the scene. Back to The Lone Ranger.

Ruffalo and Paltrow in Thanks for Sharing
Sometimes it's important to be certain that the good guys will win. Trains will be wrecked, baddies killed and women will only be a side note, but there is always magic. In this movie the magic is provided by a white 'spirit horse', which appears when things are very desperate. And even if I don't wholly understand why Johnny Depp is Tonto, I did laugh at his jokes. He was dead-pan funny. (I also don't understand that he is 50.) When in need of adventure and fairytale in safe predictable but grand form – or when in need of entertainment – watch The Lone Ranger.

Johnny Depp as Tonto
When I was very small and had my first summer holiday after my first year at school (I was 6), the morning shows for children would kick in longer during those holidays. There would be the excellent animated Herge's Adventures of Tintin, some horribly dubbed French version of the Robinson Crusoe story and alternately Champion The Wonder Horse and The Lone Ranger. The Lone Ranger wasn't a particular favourite, but I did get into the Tonto character as he seemed so exotic. I hadn't really given Tonto or the Lone Ranger much thought since. Then The Lone Ranger last year reappeared on my radar, mostly for the wrong reasons. Universally lambasted as being awful (and overnight becoming one of Disney's biggest flops), there was a word of mouth movement amongst critics and moviegoers alike that this was a mess and to be avoided. Rumours of on-set jitters from Disney about the story and the fuss about Johnny Depp playing Tonto and not being a real Red Indian and how dare he play one (it's called acting I think?) Then last month a reappraisal of The Lone Ranger reappeared via the excellent film website The Dissolve. My interest was piqued and we finally caught up with the picture.

A few things explain why the  The Lone Ranger wasn't Box Office gold. It's way too complicated plotting. This rich vein of storytelling is far closer to arthouse oddity than a mainstream, all action retelling of a family favourite Western yarn. Unlike Verbinski's Pirate franchise, The Lone Ranger is mostly quirky and imbued with a strange sense of humour running throughout (most of this supplied by Depp's deadpan Tonto). What is truly fascinating is that despite the fairly non-commercial premise, The Lone Ranger has had serious money spent on it and Verbinski's vision has been honoured. The film looks astounding and some scenes are so well executed (both extended train scenes that bookend the movie are unlike anything I've seen before). The film is long, but I wasn't bored. Armie Hammer does well as our masked, good meaning avenger. Support comes from the likes of William Fichter, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson and Barry Pepper (who are all good). Depp as Tonto is very good. We never see that this is Johnny Depp movie star (there goes the box office), he's constantly under war paint. Depp delivers in a dry, offbeat role. This performance could be too subtle for most audiences.

The film The Lone Ranger most resembles is Jim Jarmusch's excellent Dead Man, also starring Depp and featuring a similar offbeat quality – The Lone Ranger is like a big, glitzy Hollywood remake of Dead Man. And with it's portrayal of the Red Indian, The Lone Ranger shares some of the same sentiments as Clint Eastwoods masterly The Outlaw Josey Wales. There are also nods to Leone and Morricone throughout, and the use of monument valley will be very familiar to all Western fans. So what's wrong here? Nothing much actually. Yes, The Lone Ranger could have been trimmed, but it's excess does not seem like fat. This is entertaining for sure whilst at the same time appearing to be intentionally awkward. You could say it's a mainstream movie that takes risks (where have they gone?), so The Lone Ranger is simply a film out of time, not just with genre (the Western) but execution. It's ultimately a buddy movie and a road movie. I found it refreshing that a mainstream film aimed at an action genre audience could be so unconventional and at times strange. Future cult movie status will surely come. If you're not looking for the usual spills, but some confusing weirdness amongst the high production values, give The Lone Ranger some time.


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