The Lone Ranger, the tale of how John Reid (Armie Hammer) became The Ranger, is told to a young kid (Mason Elston Cook) by an elderly Tonto (Johnny Depp). Tonto plays fast and loose with perspective, apparently having intimate knowledge of many scenes that he did not witness firsthand, but let’s not get hung up on those details, this is a summer blockbuster, and those things don’t matter. After all, this is a Comanche character being played by a white actor in face paint. If you can accept that, then the rest of the movie shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

The plot is convoluted and detailed but does make some sense. The railroad baron, Cole (Tom Wilkinson), wants to connect America via the railroad, even if that means taking it right through Comanche territory, which according to the treaty, he cannot do. Why he wants to go through the territory isn’t just because it’s a quicker way from Point A to Point B, but because there is a giant silver mine with enough money for him to pay away any problem that comes his way. I have always wondered why movie villains are so concerned with money. They don’t seem to care about the law, about debt, about anything that might actually require money, so why do they need it? I have heard villains talk about getting so much money that they will live like kings, but I have never heard one gripe about not having enough to buy a loaf of bread. If you are just going to steal it, why the hell do you need the money in the first place?

Comanche territory isn’t the only thing standing in the railroad’s way: the Goody-Two-Shoes Texas Ranger Reid Brothers also present a problem. They kill one of the brothers, but the other lives and Tonto convinces him to put on the mask and ride for justice. He does, and in the end, saves the day. Surprise, surprise. But we’re not here for plot and character nuance; we’re here to see good triumph over evil and some pretty cool action pieces. Well, by that criterion, then The Lone Ranger is passable. Armie Hammer is a fairly good actor and can bring humor to small moments. Johnny Depp is buried under too much make-up and racial inflection that gets in the way of his Buster Keaton. There are a lot of action scenes and a lot of sweeping shots of horses riding through Monument Valley, and that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t add up to a hill of beans in the end.

What saddens me about The Lone Ranger is not just that it is a poorly constructed movie with a series of events happening with no real correlation, but its treatment of very real and historical events. One sequence has an army of Comanche attacking the villainous and corrupt officials and generals of the American Army. The Americans unveil a couple of Gatling Guns and mow down the Comanche left and right. Cut to Reid and Tonto trying to run away from a bundle of dynamite and a jug of kerosene. Shots of a massacre are punctuated with shots of Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer trying to save their own skin, and sadly, with a touch of humor. I’m not sure what the creative team is trying to say or even go for in this sequence, but whatever it was, they missed their mark.

Movie fans, especially of the western genre, will have a fun time pointing out all the movies and directors The Lone Ranger references. The main ones, John Ford and Sergio Leone, are painfully obvious, even the score reflecting ‘Harmonica’s Theme’ from Once Upon a Time in the West crafted by the immortal Ennio Morricone. Some scenes are not a reference but a complete ripoff. The final set-piece comes from The General, and it’s not subtle. In both movies, a train goes over a bridge that has been destroyed, and down it plummets into the water. Here is the major difference between The General and The Lone Ranger, when that train went over the top in The General, it was a real train, going over a real bridge, falling into a real river, with real destruction. In The Lone Ranger, it is a digital train going over a digital bridge, and falling into a (possibly real—but who can tell anymore) river. In essence, The General is a real movieand The Lone Ranger is pretending to be one. Too bad, it looked like it cost a hell of a lot of money.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

The Lone Ranger (2013)
Directed By: Gore Verbinski
Written By: Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Produced By: Jerry Bruckheimer, Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, James Badge Dale, Bryant Prince, Barry Pepper, Mason Elston Cook
Walt Disney Pictures, Running Time 149 minutes, Rated PG-13, Released July 3, 2013

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