Brian Henry Martin at the movies

Who Killed The Lone Ranger?

Published Thursday, 15 August 2013
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Imagine The Pirates Of The Caribbean in the Wild West. Imagine Johnny Depp, not as buccaneering Jack Sparrow but as Tonto, the free-spirited Comanche scout.

Imagine the thrills, the spills, the box office. Hi-Ho, Silver! Away?

Eeerrrggghhhh! I'm afraid not, Pirates director Gore Verbinski has inexplicably made a train wreck of a Western, a deeply boring film in which Carry on Cowboy meets Indiana Jones in the worst possible way. The Lone Ranger is a noisy, never-ending nonsensical mess, which easily tops the flops in the silly season of summer blockbusters.

The movie begins in 1933 with the twinkling lights of a fairground in the San Francisco bay. A young boy dressed as the masked avenger walks around a fusty Wild West sideshow. The old frontier is long gone but amazingly still alive is the noble savage Tonto (Johnny Depp), who begins to tell the boy the myth of 'The Lone Ranger'.

This, of course, is a completely pointless and distracting framing device. Why do so many blockbusters begin with the most boring questions. How does a city lawyer become 'The Lone Ranger'? Who cares? How does The Lone Ranger and Tonto meet? Again who cares. Get on with the action.

The running time of this overlong and overwrought film is a whopping 2 hours, 29 minutes, making it less of an adventure and more of an ordeal. We can only fathom that the editor fell asleep at the wheel. There was a reason why the original cinema serials were less than twenty minutes.

Anyway, after much dusty bluster, the Lone Ranger (Arnie Hammer) and his trusty sidekick Tonto finally get together to fight injustice in the Old West. This, they find in the form of two pantomime villains, a greedy railroader Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson) and a cannibalistic gunman Butch Cavendish (William Fichter).

Viewers of The Pirates films will find this tired plot over familiar, including the search for buried treasure in the desert. Simply swap Spanish galleons for steam locomotives and let the swashbuckling begin. However, one too many runaway train sequences and you soon feel like you are drowning in treacle.

Johnny Depp, once one of my favourite actors, has become a parody of himself. His quirky characterisation and dead pan delivery are as fresh as mucky slush. His Tonto, with his crustily painted zebra face and dead crow tiara should be a delight but is a disaster. "Do not touch rock - rock cursed" says Tonto. What he should really say is 'Do not touch script - script cursed'.

Worse still is the ultra-bland Arnie Hammer, who is spectacularly miscast in the lead role. His masked avenger is supposed to be heroic, stoic and comic but falls embarrassingly flat with an inept performance. Sadly Hammer is no James Stewart. His misfiring Loan Ranger is nothing more than a groan arranger.

Last year, director Gore Verbinski made the Oscar winning animation Rango, an inventive spin on the Western genre. Unfortunately, this year, he's flogging a dead horse.


The Lone Ranger (Cert 12a) is now on general release.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.

Twice.

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