2013's Most Anticipated: The Lone Ranger

39. The Lone Ranger (PG-13) - Runtime: 149 minutes
Starring: Armie Hammer, Johnny Depp, William Fichtner
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writers: Junstin Haythe, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio

Another movie, another troubled production. But that really doesn't matter, now does it? The Lone Ranger seems to be carrying a lot of baggage - it's another Depp/Verbinski/Bruckheimer collaboration since the third Pirates movie - and all three have seen a dip in popularity. Depp's popularity domestically seems to be at an all-time low, Verbinski has had moderate success with Rango, but has done nothing else and Bruckheimer's last major film productions have been not so well-received - Pirates 4, The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Prince of Persia. So it seems like Disney and the marketing has made it clear they really, really would love to make The Lone Ranger out to be the next Pirates and while they may have succeeded in creating a fun action flick, I highly doubt the general public will enjoy this movie as much as I did.

Armie Hammer plays the title role - a city lawyer who gets caught up in a conspiracy-laden plot that has so many western elements involved - the railroad, outlaws, train robberies, Indians and lots and lots of gun fighting and horse riding. The plot does hit a rough patch where there is too much going on and it seems like it wanted to pay homage to every single western it could. Which is not a bad thing, it's just a bit sloppy and sometimes has a hard time with the pacing. And if you've seen any type of action/western movie in the past 10 years, you'll be able to predict where the story is going to end up halfway through the movie.

That may sound like a bad thing, but really it's not - the movie doesn't treat the plot "twists" and reveals as anything special. The spotlight here is on the action and Tonto. And boy there is a lot of action - the first 15 minutes of the movie is pretty spectacular and the last action set piece was particularly enjoyable. But the movie has a tendency to get in its own way. The movie is being told by a very old Tonto, recalling his days with the Lone Ranger to a tiny kid in a cowboy outfit at the carnival, 60 years after the events of the movie. Unfortunately this isn't cute and funny like The Princess Bride, but just seemed overly condescending and annoying when they would cut back to the kid asking dumb questions like "But The Lone Ranger didn't die, did he?"

As for Depp as Tonto - well, he wasn't annoying. Which isn't high praise exactly - Tonto has his own backstory and we understand his motivations and actions. But to me that was off-putting - I'd rather have Tonto be more like an enigma. That would have had more impact on his character (like Charles Bronson's character in Once Upon a Time in the West). He has some special moments and I'm glad he didn't steal the show. Really, the dude who steals the show this time around is the villain Butch Cavendish played by a barely-recognizable William Fichtner. He is simply amazing in this movie - he's completely sinister and evil - dude literally eats his victims' hearts!

And speaking of eating hearts this movie is completely fiendish. I mean, the body count is probably higher in this movie than the last Rambo movie (and a lot of people died in that movie, trust me). There's not a whole lot of blood, but pretty much anyone who doesn't have more than a couple lines of dialogue gets slaughtered in this movie. Which I'm okay with - I think the movie doesn't treat any of the violence as okay or normal - there's a brutality to this movie that may steer and lot of family-minded audiences away. And I could understand - it's a Disney movie for crying out loud - but the movie does not shy away from all the violence the wild west was known for. And it doesn't shy away from the treatment of Native Americans either - it's completely awful to see what happens to a lot of them. So kudos for the film for being honest instead of Pocohantasing this movie up.

And Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger? Well, he's good - just not amazing. It's like Orlando Bloom in the Pirates movies - he does a good job, it's just not the focal point of the story. Which is funny because it is all about The Lone Ranger - but really this is just an origin-type story so we don't really get to see the Lone Ranger become the legend until halfway through and even then it's still more about the action than the character. Is that a bad thing? Probably, but I didn't mind.

The film has a hard time reconciling the violence with the more light-hearted action-adventure tones that it portrays. I wouldn't say it's distracting enough to the point where I thought it was bad, it's just that the movie cannot decide what it really wants to be. The western isn't cartoonish enough like the Pirates movies to get away with some of the more supernatural elements (the Spirit-guide horse was funny but not that funny). And the really meaningful and violent aspects sometimes don't get the weight they need because the movie is too busy trying to make a joke. Oh and the other thing that really bothered me and was WAY out of place was the cannibalistic rabbits (seriously, it's just weird).

All in all, this was a fun movie. It may be hard to swallow at times (what with the violence and the messy plot), but it's really quite enjoyable. Critics have absolutely trashed it and I think most people won't come away with happy feelings about the movie. But I think it's worth checking out and there's a lot of cool action and enough character to the movie to set aside the flaws.

Rating: Rent It!

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