The Lone Ranger (2013) Review (PG-13)
The Lone Ranger was not a movie that i was enthusiastic about seeing, but I was surprised at how much I was entertained by it. Gore Verbinski is a solid director who has shown that he can make a great film in a variety of genres (The Ring, Pirates of The Caribbean, The Weather Man). This isn’t his first western (The Mexican.. sort of) and it’s far from his best (Rango), but The Lone Ranger is a pretty good romp, even if they showed practically the entire film in the trailer.
The film opens not in the 1800s when the majority of the story occurs, but in the 1900s at some sort of San Francisco Amusement Park. A young fan of the lone Ranger is touring a sideshow filled with creatures of the old west when he comes across a wax figure of a venerable American indian. It’s obvious from first glance that there is something odd about the figure. When the boy gets a closer look, the figure introduces himself as Tonto (Johnny Depp), the sidekick of The Lone Ranger. That is met with quite a bit of skepticism, so this aged figure sets about telling the story of how he came to know the Lone Ranger. This whole plot/narrative device should remind most western fans of Little Big Man (or at least.. ahem… Young Guns).
His tale begins with John Reid, an idealistic young lawyer returning to his home in Texas, played by Armie Hammer. It doesn’t take long for the action to begin (immediately) and there is quite a bit of that in this movie. A horrid man named Cavendish is being transported on the same train to be hanged. He is the sort of villain that you would have seen in Disney movies of the distant past, meaning he is of the creepy visage. William Fichtner, who has played quite a few creeps in the past is in full on Villain mode here. Anyway, he’s locked up with a couple of other prisoners, one of them being Tonto, a Comanche American Indian. Along the train’s route into town, Cavendish’s gang shows up and what follows is the stuff of Classic silent movie action comedies; many visually funny antics preceeding the train’s derailment along with Cavendish’s escape. Then, John’s brother Dan, a Texas Ranger (played by James Dale) shows up with his men to find John rather ineptly trying to perform a citizen’s arrest on Tonto (even if the two were previously working together to stop the bad guys).
Tonto is locked up in the town jail, while John Reid reacquaints himself with old friends, especially with the wife of his brother, Rebecca (Ruth Wilson). It is immediately apparent that there is a strong feeling of unrequited love between the two, and that John must have lost out to Dan in vying for the hand of Rebecca. The pleasntries are short, though as Dan deputizes John as a Ranger and off they go with posse in tow (Hey, I’m rhymed!), withile Tonto gets to the business of freeing himself from jail.
Cavendish heads off into Comanche territory to escape the posse. The Comanches have been engaging in raids on the settlements, so there is some hesitation in following Cavendish into the Indians’ land. They do so only to have one of Dan’s Rangers (the tracker) betray the group. and are ambushed by Cavendish in a canyon. All are killed, except for John, who may have been spared because Cavendish’s preoccupation with Dan, who is the one that had brought in the outlaw originally. Cavendish then proves that some of the rumors about his extreme depravity are true. Sometime later, Tonto wanders by heading for his homeland, happening on the dead Rangers and is compelled to bury them, only to find John Reid is still alive. Thus begins John Reid’s recovery and transformation into The LOOOOOOOOOONE RANGER (!).
There are quite a few twists and turns after that, but I won’t SPOIL anything from there on. Much like Verbinski’s Prirates of the Caribbean films, the story relies heavily on humor and action. I do think the film sags in the latter part of the second act and comes dangerously close to derailing altogether. There was a moment where if I had been wearing a watch, I would have been checking it. At that moment, the movie had deteriorated in my eyes to barely passable (2.5 of 5) or barely tolerable (3 of 5), but…
And I have to give a minor SPOILER WARNING here… And it is minor, but if you don’t like SPOILERS cover your eyes until the next paragraph…. I have to say when a certain overture comes out in the last half hour of the film, I completely was won over. Robert McKee always says “Wow them in the end and you’ve got yourself a movie”… At least Brian Cox said so AS McKee in the movie Adaptation…. and I guess he was right. The big finish saved the movie (for me). Sadly, most film critics are making it sound like this is of ‘Wild, Wild West’ Bomb Level. It isn’t and it’s being judged far too harshly.
I think there were some missteps in this film, but overall I had a really good time watching the updated version of iconic western radio & television hero ‘The Lone Ranger’. Perhaps the ad campaign and publicity push was the film’s downfall (flagging at the box office). And maybe it should have been gotten a PG rating instead of the dreaded ‘PG-13’ that tends to do nothing but water down stories. I’m sure parents also hesitated to take their kids to a Disney movie that featured a whorehouse prominently in the story. But, I don’t think the film is nearly as bad as the panning by critics that it has gotten and to me is exactly what it’s intended to be: entertaining, big budget summer fare. Maybe there won’t be a sequel, but it won’t be because this was a ‘bad’ movie.