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'The Lone Ranger's' comedic, action packed moments outweigh film's lesser points

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After being plagued for over two years with budget concerns, poor shooting conditions and other issues too numerous to mention, Disney was finally able to bring The Lone Ranger and his trusty sidekick (?) Tonto back to the silver screen.

 

The film begins in San Francisco in 1933, where a young museum goer comes across an aging Tonto (Johnny Depp), who begins to tell the tale of John Reid (Armie Hammer), a young city lawyer from Colby, Texas back in 1869. A new railroad is being developed in the city, and a train is coming through carrying the evil outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), who is to be hanged for his crimes committed throughout the west. Photo: sleeplessthought.com

 

Riding on the same train is Tonto, an edgy, mysterious Indian who is also awaiting his execution (Indians were not looked upon favorably in those times- more on that later). When Tonto tries to alert the law officers on the train that Cavendish has a gun, it’s too late and Cavendish ends up killing the officers and is about to kill Tonto- until  Reid (upon hearing gunshots) steps in just in time to save him.

 

However, Cavendish’s men raid the train and Cavendish escapes. After Reid’s brother (James Badge Dale) and friends come and save Reid and Tonto (as well as the train), they return to town- where Reid proceeds to lock up Tonto as he goes with his brother to track down Cavendish.

 

However, Reid’s gang is ambushed and his brother and crew are murdered by Cavendish. Reid narrowly escapes death and is rescued by Tonto and a white horse that Reid eventually names ‘Silver.’ Even though their relationship is complicated and they go through an initial rough patch, the two form an unlikely alliance and set out to avenge Reid’s brother’s death and bring Cavendish to justice. Along the way, the two uncover a plot to steal a share of the new railroad as well as a war brewing between the Comanche tribe and the American people, which reveals there is more to Tonto than originally meets the eye.   

 

 

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If you’re looking for the old school Clayton Moore/Jay Silverheels version of the masked man and his loyal companion, this is not your father’s Lone Ranger. The violence (which includes genocide) can be gruesome at times and the gore factor is pretty high. The special effects involving runaway trains and galloping horses are the clear highlights of the film. However, these scenes (at times) appear to choppy and out of sync with the dramatic scenes. As a result, the pacing of The Lone Ranger is a bit off during some parts and the two and a half hour running time can seem a bit lengthy.

 

 

While not exactly a household name when you consider other actors who could have been cast in the role, Hammer (The Social Network) holds his own behind the mask as he plays the part of Reid as more of a bumbling, reluctant hero (as opposed to Moore’s more straightforward portrayal from the 1940’s and 50’s series). This gradually changes as the film progresses, as Hammer does a nice job of keeping the character noble as well as honorable during the film’s most crucial moments.

 

Hammer has great chemistry with his co-star Depp and compliments him nicely, but there’s a clear reason why Depp gets top billing here. Without pulling any punches, it’s safe to say the veteran actor clearly carries the weight of this film. Unlike any previous Lone Ranger stories, Tonto takes the lead role and his perspective is the main viewpoint. Director Gore Verbinski  manages to make this a natural transition without coming off as pretentious- something Zack Snyder fails to do at times in Man of Steel.  Depp’s character is the film’s most colorful (not completely unlike his role of Jack Sparrow) he gets the most screen time, delivers all the best lines and manages to still draw laughs over the numerous times he feeds his fake bird. Depp’s performance is so strong he might be in store for another Oscar nod- if the academy decides to take this role seriously.

 

Not to be lost in the mix is Fichtner, who is unrecognizable in the role of Cavendish. Fichtner’s teeth alone will freak you out, and his eerie presence as the film’s antagonist ranks him among some of the best on-screen villains in recent memory. The other supporting characters aren’t as well developed- including Helena Bonham Carter’s role as the leg/gun toting madam. Although Carter is underused in the film, she clearly makes the most of her limited screen time.

 

Despite going a little overboard with the violence and dramatic scenes for a movie that’s primarily supposed to be lighthearted, the fun, comedic interplay and spectacular stunts (mainly offered up by Depp and Hammer) in  The Lone Ranger outweigh the film’s darker moments. Overall a solid film worthy of seeing over the 4th of July holiday.

 

 

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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