CRITICS BOO 'THE LONE RANGER'

Posted on July 2, 2013 

This April 2012 photo released by the Navajo Nation shows, actor Johnny Depp, center, shaking hands with Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Navajo Nation Vice President Rex Lee Jim in Monument Valley during the filming of "The Lone Ranger." The Pendleton blanket was presented to Johnny Depp as a good will gesture on behalf of the Navajo Nation. (AP Photo/Emerald Craig/Navajo Nation)

EMERALD CRAIG — AP

An assortment of reviews of "The Lone Ranger" from Anchorage Daily News websites. After seeing the movie, what do you think? Email play@adn.com.

 

'BIGGEST STINKER OF 2013'

By Mick LaSalle 

San Francisco Chronicle

Action. Starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. Directed by Gore Verbinski. (PG-13. 149 minutes.) NO STARS OUT OF 4 STARS 

“The Lone Ranger,” produced by Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer, is an action movie bloodbath for a children’s audience. It has horse manure jokes for the kiddies, as well as scenes of an Indian tribe getting wiped out, a posse of rangers getting shot to death and an intimate interlude in which a man has his heart cut out. In the latter case, you don’t actually see the heart being ripped from the body, just the sound of the cutting and hacking. 

But put aside the notion that children shouldn’t see this film. No one should. “The Lone Ranger” is a movie for the whole family . . . to avoid. It represents two and a half of the longest hours on record, a jumbled botch that is so confused in its purpose and so charmless in its effect that it must be seen to be believed, but better yet, no. Don’t see it, don’t believe it, not unless a case of restless leg syndrome sounds like a fun time at the movies. 

Johnny Depp as Tonto is not the problem. Within the limitations of the miserable script, his worried, deadpan take on the Lone Ranger’s faithful sidekick borders on funny, and the word “kemosabe” rolls off his tongue like he’s been saying it all his life. He mugs and pushes, and sometimes can’t borrow a laugh — even at a preview with a hyped up audience — but what is Depp supposed to do? Lie there and give up? Actually, what he’s supposed to do is say no to movies like this, but once the mistake has been made, he has only one play, which is to plunge ahead and chase away the looming possibility that he’s stuck in the biggest stinker of 2013. 

Aside from all its little problems, “The Lone Ranger” has three big ones: The first is that the character of the Lone Ranger is that of a contemptible idiot. The second is that the Lone Ranger’s friendship with Tonto barely exists. (Tonto is too cool to be devoted, and the Lone Ranger is too much of a smug dummy to have emotions that count.) The third is that the filmmakers have no non-mercenary purpose in resurrecting the Lone Ranger as a character. All they know is that, whatever happens, American Indians have to come out looking OK. 

The movie takes about 40 minutes just to crank its plot into motion: John Reid (Armie Hammer), who will soon emerge as the Lone Ranger, wants to capture a sadistic outlaw (William Fichtner) and bring him to justice. He is joined by Tonto, because Tonto is under the impression that Reid is a special spirit, who can’t be killed. So right there you have Tonto caring for Reid for reasons that are impersonal, and you have Reid not caring for Tonto at all. You know what? If they don’t care, we don’t care. 

That seemingly simple through-line becomes contorted and convoluted when set against the linking of the first Transcontinental railroad. East and west joined together at Promontory, Utah in 1869, an event replicated here, only without President Ulysses Grant in attendance. Having a sitting president on the scene just wouldn’t do, especially as our heroes, by this time, are intent on blowing up the whole thing, the tracks, the trains, the bridges . . . Don’t ask. The Lone Ranger might have been too corny for a straight re-imagining, but to turn the title character into a moron/anti-hero and Tonto into a bloodless vacancy was no winning alternative. 

Two of the movie’s three screenwriters were collaborators on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, and “The Lone Ranger” shares a family resemblance with that series: It has the clumsy shifts in tone, the lack of motivation, the deliberately conflicted alliances, the mishmash of characters, the desperately boring action sequences (because who cares?) and the aren’t-we-cute treatment of the protagonists. It has that other thing, too, the sense of a movie’s being stretched to epic length in some vain hope that people might mistake it for an epic. 

Gore Verbinski, who directed the “Pirates” movies, directs this, too, and there are two moments to make you realize that Verbinski doesn’t have to make bad movies. He just chooses to. The first is an opening shot of San Francisco in 1933, which shows the Bay Bridge under construction, then swoops down to introduce a boy at a carnival. Nice work, pretty and graceful. The second is the depiction of the seconds before a Comanche attack. There’s something in the air, something alive in the silence, like right before feds slaughtered Bonnie and Clyde. Also good. 

That’s 45 watchable seconds. When Verbinski can figure out a way to do that 120 times in a row, he’ll really have something. 

Mick LaSalle is The San Francisco Chronicle’s movie critic.

 

'PRICEY, JUMBLED COMPROMISE'

By Roger Moore

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Saying the new “Lone Ranger” has “tone issues” is just code for “I could have done without the bad guy tearing out somebody’s heart and taking a bite out of it.”

The folks who did the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies go overboard with the violence in what is essentially a playful spin on a myth — or a TV version of a legend.

The U.S. Cavalry carries out massacres, “progress” is an act of venal destruction and corruption and “stupid white man” is the inscrutably eccentric Tonto’s favorite putdown.

No, this is not John Wayne’s Old West.

It’s all in service of a tall tale being told by an ancient Indian (Johnny Depp) who may or may not be Tonto, a sideshow attraction who spins this yarn to a little boy (Mason Cook) wearing a Lone Ranger get-up in a fair in 1930s San Francisco. Tonto remembers the days of yore when he road sidekick to the masked man.

Gore Verbinski’s film is an overlong array of noisy, digitally assisted chases, shootouts, crashes and explosions, with the occasional flash of homage to the “real” Lone Ranger that suggests a better movie than the pricey, jumbled compromise Verbinski delivered.

Armie Hammer is John Reid, the new Colby, Texas, district attorney who witnesses the latest and last heroic act of his lawman brother (James Badge Dale), who has “saved the day, as usual.”

Brother Dan is killed by the vile Butch Cavendish (William Fitchner) and lawyer Reid is left for dead. But he isn’t, and when Tonto (who has escaped from the law, charged with being an “Indian”) sees the white horse that saved Reid, he decides that this stranger is a ranger — or “spirit warrior” who cannot be killed. And if justice is to be done, this spirit warrior will need to hide his identity.

There’s a railroad being pushed through, shortcuts being taken in Indian territory by conspiracists whom you just know include fat cat Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson). Somebody’s got to mount up, put on a mask and sets things to right. (“Who WAS that masked man?”)

Hammer strikes just the right note — naive, valiant and in over his head. It is, of course, Depp’s movie, and the quirks he piles onto poor Tonto make Captain Jack Sparrow look mild-mannered by comparison. One gag that works: His fellow tribesmen disavow Tonto, whose makeup and mannerisms are too eccentric, even for them.

Heroic moments scored to “The William Tell Overture” still have the power to thrill. Everyone in this setting is seriously sun-baked and weathered, a nice touch of authenticity. And many of the jokey predicaments — Tonto and Reid buried up to their necks, Tonto and the Lone Ranger forced to rob a bank, Tonto’s attempt to warn his blundering captors of their doom or Reid’s “burial” at the top of a rickety tower — pay off hilariously.

Then Fitchner’s villain does something bloody-minded and psychotic, Wilkinson’s villain crosses a line no sane man would cross, or Barry Pepper shows up doing a pompous based-on-Custer impersonation with an idea for wiping out the Red Man.

And the cheerful cartoon this might have been goes all dark and dismal.

THE LONE RANGER

2 stars (Grade: C-minus)

Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Ruth Wilson, William Fitchner, Tom Wilkinson, Helena Bonham Carter

Directed Gore Verbinski, scripted by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. A Disney release

Running time: 2:29

MPAA rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence and some suggestive material.

 

'A FEW FUN MOMENTS'

By Rick Bentley

The Fresno Bee

There are two important things you should keep in mind when seeing “The Lone Ranger”:

1. It’s a comical look at the Western hero.

2. The film’s so weighted toward The Masked Man’s sidekick, it should have been called “Tonto.”

Unlike the dramatic approach used in past big-screen and TV versions of the Lone Ranger story, director Gore Verbinski takes a comedic approach similar to that used in his “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.

Even more important, this new “Lone Ranger” has Johnny Depp playing Tonto. No one is going to cast Depp in a film and reduce his presence to a supporting role.

Neither of these points creates any major problem, unless you want the Lone Ranger to be the classic hero. This version — played by Armie Hammer — is a bit of a dolt who prefers to battle bad guys with the letter of the law. From the decision to wear a mask to hide his identity to his horse, Silver, every aspect of the character is the punch line for a joke.

The story is a standard Western tale, with the Lone Ranger and Tonto trying to catch the evil Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), who is in cahoots with some dastardly businessmen. Their battles play out against the backdrop of the completion of the first intercontinental railway.

Hammer’s likable enough, both as attorney John Reid and as the Masked Man. But he’s closer to the homespun nature of Sheriff Andy Taylor in “The Andy Griffith Show” than the heroic character played by Clayton Moore in the 1950s TV series or written by Fran Striker in the original radio plays and books.

Past Tontos have been stoic characters, but that was before Depp came along. The most obvious sign Depp’s Tonto is a few buffalo short of a herd is his constant feeding of the dead bird that rest upon his head. Instead of Tonto, the character should be called Capt. Jack Crow.

Verbinski was smart enough to keep some of the elements from the TV series, including the use of Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” as the theme music. The most exciting moments come in the last third of the film when The Lone Ranger and Tonto save the day against the musical backdrop of the driving music.

Verbinski’s movies have a bloated feeling, as shown in each “Pirates” movie. The action sequences in “The Lone Ranger” would have been even more exciting if Verbinski had cut at least 30 minutes.

If you can accept this film is not your father’s — or even grandfather’s — “Lone Ranger,” then this latest adventure has a few fun moments. If not, you and your “kemosabe” should ride off into the sunset of other summer movies.

———

THE LONE RANGER

Grade: C-plus

Rated PG-13 for action scenes. Stars Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson. Directed by Gore Verbinski. Running time: 2 hours, 29 minutes.

 

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