The Lone Ranger (12A)

Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp team up as the most unconvincing duo since Justin and Britney for Gore Verbinski’s update of the 1950’s western serial. If only someone could spur it on a bit.

The Lone Ranger is a fantastically mediocre and long film, starring Armie Hammer as the masked Ranger himself and Johnny Depp as Tonto, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Gore Verbinski, the men who gave us Pirates of the Caribbean.

So what sort of a movie is it? A family film, but too bloodless and archly self-aware to be a through-and-through western, and it’s something other than an unassuming cinema version of the much-loved radio and TV adventure serials that in fact spawned two films in the 1950s. Really, it’s yet another superhero-origin franchise product, giving massively elaborate explanations for the hero’s name and that of his horse. “The Lone Ranger” is finally spelt out haltingly, like “The Bat Man”– a legend being born.

Pretty soon every movie franchise in the world will be rebooted with this origin-myth style: a black-eared rodent called Michael will be tentatively hailed, at the end of a three-hour film culminating in a helium-inhalation tragedy, as “Mickey … Mouse”.

John Reid , a rather mousy, intellectual fellow who arrives in Texas in the 1850s to visit his alpha-male brother, Dan (James Badge Dale), a fearless lawman who is now married to the lovely Rebecca (Ruth Wilson), for whom John still carries a torch. Dan is tracking down loathsome bandit Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner); the resulting melee brings John into contact with crooked railroad chief Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson) and also charismatic Native American Tonto, whose people are about to be double—crossed by the white man’s business interests, and who finds only John is his friend. Everywhere in America, it seems, bad guys are getting away with bad stuff, and the authorities are either dirty or turn a blind eye. Who can come to the rescue?

No new version of The Lone Ranger can simply leave Tonto as the lesser sidekick, and casting the A-lister Depp is perhaps intended to redress the balance all by itself. Depp brings a kind of deadpan drollery to the part, but I found his performance unbearably mannered, cute and coy. It was yet another clone copy Depp performance; acting neurotically, looking into the distance pensively and being the selfishly reluctant hero.

Hammer can no more control his accent in the movie, than he can control Silver or Tonto for that matter. It’s strange to think that in the 1950’s two brothers can grow up in the same town and for one of them to talk in a thick American accent and the other to vary between Oxford English and yokel. It was a blessing in disguise, the movie was so tiresome the ‘Which accent is next?’ game is the only thing that kept my attention.

The Lone Ranger winds up looking sort of like a single-ingredient mashup, it has a smug, tongue-in-cheek pastichey feel, a passionless lack of actual interest in the imagery of the Old West, and is evoked with a fraction of the humour and zing of, say, Sheriff Woody from Toy Story.

I am unconvinced that Verbinski can persuade UK audiences to get behind his US flop. The masked man may well be back for two or three more movies, but I can’t help hoping that he’s trotted over the horizon for the last time. Trying to breath life into a classic tale has never been executed so poorly.

By Ruth Walker
★★☆☆☆

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