Monday 8 July 2013

Film Review: The Lone Ranger

Tonto was becoming increasingly jealous of
the Lone Ranger's cool mask

Starring Armie Hammer and Johnny 'Jack Sparrow' Depp as vigilante duo The Lone Ranger and Tonto, this latest Disney action-adventure flick is a fun, energetic and zany Western that all ages can appreciate from director Gore Verbinski.

After adapting roller-coasters (Pirates of the Caribbean) and video games (Prince of Persia) into films with  varying degrees of success, Disney and Jerry Bruckenheimer have looked to something a little more conventional by working on a big-screen outing for The Lone Ranger.

Good guys never look back at explosions
Based upon a long running radio-serial from the 1930's that spawned thousands of episodes, a television series as well as tons of novels and cartoons, The Lone Ranger is a cultural icon that has come to define the Western genre to many. And whilst this latest family-friendly action adventure flick won't come to be considered a classic in years to come, it most certainly isn't the unmitigated disaster that many critics make it out to seem.

First off, let's talk about the cast. I quite liked Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger; his development from naive city-boy to gritty vigilante might have been ill-paced, but he wasn't an unlikeable lead. He's funny, affable and able to convincingly carry off the action sequences.

Meanwhile, Johnny Depp is in back in Jack Sparrow mode as Native American accomplice, Tonto. The lead duo continually bounce quips and jokes off of one another in a light and genuinely funny script. The majority of the jokes come from Depp and his punctuated delivery, as well as his vast array of funny faces that audiences know and love. You could go as far as to say he steals the show a little.

There's also a lot of sight gags involving The Lone Ranger's horse, Silver. It's clean, kiddy-friendly fun that should entertain teens and adults alike. The action set-pieces, from silver mines to locomotives, are as elaborate and over-the-top as you would expect from the people behind Pirates of the Caribbean.

One particular sequence in which Tonto uses a ladder to step from one train to another whilst speeding through the mountains will have critics snorting in derision at the ridiculousness of it all, but if you suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride, The Lone Ranger is a whole lot of fun and will have you in stitches along the way.

The film's weak-point is the excessive runtime. At two and a half hours, The Lone Ranger is a very long film and it needn't be. It does take a long, long time for Armie Hammer to don the black mask and for the William Tell Overture to kick in. Before all of that, the plot tries to squeeze in as many characters and side-motives as possible, leaving it feeling kind of bloated. The film would have worked better had the script been tighter, with some of the excess shaved off in order to stick to a stricter runtime.

For example, the 'legend of the Lone Ranger' was told through Tonto telling the story to a young child in 1933; everything that happens from then on is a flashback. Whilst it was a nice touch, it added time to the film and could have been cut for the sake of simplicity.

Also, there are something like three or four 'baddies', including William Fitchner's malicious Butch Cavendish and Tom Wilkinson's scheming tycoon Latham Cole. One or two would have done the trick as the plot starts to suffer from the same over-complexity that Pirates 2 and 3 didn't need.

On the whole, The Lone Ranger doesn't deserve the drubbing it is receiving from many critics and is worth a shot if you are looking for some zany escapism this weekend. It suffers from a long-run time and an excess of villainy, but other than that, it is a genuinely funny and silly Western that should appeal to all ages.

I give The Lone Ranger: 7/10

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