Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Movie review: The Lone Ranger (+video)


If the quirky, zany, bumbling charms of Johnny Depp's performances in most everything else he's been in for the past decade are wearing a bit thin, then here's some relief.

His Tonto, in this theme-park-sized adaptation of The Lone Ranger, is actually really quite funny. That's whether he's playing him as we first see him as a wizened old sideshow attraction, in flashbacks that frame the story with echoes of Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man.

Or for the rest of the movie playing the warpainted oddball buddy to that Kemosabe guy. His Tonto is more deranged cosmic mentor than the sidekick of the old television show. And he's fun.

For the first hour of this, Depp certainly justifies the choice to make a film about The Lone Ranger about the other guy. Problem is there's still a long, long way to go on a movie that is all over the place tone-wise - it's goofy Blazing Saddles meets violent Hell on Wheels meets quaint old Gunsmoke - and one that starts and ends at a gallop (no prizes for guessing the music powering the big finale) but which has a big saggy middle.

When a horse - not Silver - keels over in the desert heat, that signals the start of the movie's descent into plot quicksand.

That was a problem too with director Verbinski's increasingly bloated Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which made a blockbuster star out of Depp in his role as Captain Jack Sparrow.

There's some of Sparrow's addled clowning in Tonto - the way he steps off a splintering ladder from one speeding train to another is done with much the same nonchalance as Captain Jack stepped off his sinking ship in the first and best Pirates movie.

Good, too, is Armie Hammer as John Reid, the man who becomes the Lone Ranger despite lacking the cowboy skills of his Texas Ranger brother. When his sibling is cut down Reid takes on the mask and takes up with Tonto, who has also been on the trail of the clearly evil - just look at the state of his teeth - Butch Cavendish (Fichtner).

Cue extravagant plot-maze involving a silver mine, a railway tycoon (Wilkinson), the local native American population, the US Calvary, and Helena Bonham Carter wandering in from some another movie - Blazing Saddles II or Les Miserables Goes West? - as a saloon madam with killer legs. Make that leg.

A movie featuring so many spectacular trainwrecks certainly invites the comparison that it is one. If only it could have maintained a head of steam getting there.

Stars: 3/5
Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson Director: Gore Verbinksi
Rating: M (violence)
Running time: 149 mins
Verdict: The revived duo is fun, the movie less so.

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