Movie Review: Johnny Depp is funny as Tonto but he fails to save disastrous THE LONE RANGER
A trip to the costume closet means Johnny Depp removes the eyeliner and hair braids he made famous as Capt. Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and in their place puts on Native American war paint and a headdress fashioned from a black crow.
Depp reunites with his Pirates team, director Gore Verbinski, who directed Depp in the first three Pirates movies as well as the animated feature Rango; writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio and producer Jerry Bruckheimer for a no-holds-barred, period remake of The Lone Ranger.
Depp helps re-spin the classic western myth by putting the Native American sidekick Tonto front and center and shifting co-star Armie Hammer two steps to the side as John Reid, who wears the trademark black mask and white cowboy hat as the heroic ranger fighting the outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and a corrupt railroad owner named Cole (Tom Wilkinson).
Anyone who questions the risky business of moviemaking only has to sit through the first half hour of the dull and drawn-out western Lone Ranger to see how badly things can turn out even when no expense is spared and the best talent is assembled.
Verbinski, who revived the pirate genre with the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, re-teams with Elliott and Rossio as well as Revolutionary Road screenwriter Justin Haythe but instead of reinventing a classic American hero they waste an opportunity to do something special via a frantic movie that feels desperate to excite but ends up being repetitive.
Hammer, so good in The Social Network as well as J. Edgar, deserves a blockbuster franchise of his own but he keeps landing in awful movies like this one and Mirror Mirror.
Helena Bonham Carter, fresh off her roles as Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter movies, appears as a forgettable brothel owner who helps the film’s heroes. It’s as if there’s a union rule that all summer blockbusters make room for her.
James Badge Dale looks the part as John’s older brother Dan, the town sheriff battling Cavendish, but fails to make much of an impact.
Ruth Wilson, so good in the BBC series Luther, is cast aside as Dan’s widow who’s constantly in peril. Tom Wilkinson, a go-to- villain for Hollywood blockbusters, come up empty as the corrupt business behind the film’s core plot involving the Transcontinental railroad and a secret silver mine and the normally reliable William Fichtner never rises above his frightening make up.
Granted, Depp is fun as Tonto and delivers more than his share of verbal zingers to his masked Kemo Sabe as well as his white spirit horse called Silver. But Depp is helpless when it comes to a chaotic action blockbuster stuffed with runaway trains, gun battles, fistfights and dynamite explosions. It comes off as desperate.
It’s worth remembering that Walt Disney Studios briefly halted production on the movie over budget concerns and in hindsight, they probably should not have made the movie.
Tonto and his masked friend deserve a better reinvention for new audiences and a real chance at reconnecting the classic American hero to new fans.
Depp, Bruckheimer and Verbinski claim an impressive track record so it’s fair to expect that Tonto and his trusted Kemo Sabe were in good hands. Instead, the risky business of moviemaking comes up empty and they deliver one of the summer’s biggest blockbuster duds.
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writer: Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Cinematographer: Bojan Bazelli
Producers: Silver Bullet Productions, Infinitum Nihil, Classic Media, Blink Wink Productions, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney Pictures
Running time: 149 mins
Release Date: July 3, 2010