Wednesday, 17 July 2013


It should have been a sure thing.  A grand-scale Western, based on an enduring pop-culture icon, starring one of the most bankable movie-stars of the modern age. 

But The Lone Ranger flopped.

The flick will likely finish its box-office run limping to less than $100 million domestically.  Which is nightmarish in this era of billion-dollar worldwide grosses. It’s certainly bloated, and overwrought, and unsettlingly violent -- especially for a PG-13 Disney family film starring Johnny Depp.  But not so much for a Jerry Bruckheimer production. 

Despite being DOA, The Lone Ranger is one of the most purely entertaining movies of the summer.

Depp, who's been sleepwalking in the decade since Pirates Of The Caribbean canonized him as a Hollywood heavyweight, is as compelling as ever here playing the Lone Ranger’s noble Cherokee sidekick, Tonto.  He’s channeling Buster Keaton instead of Jack Sparrow, which is a relief.  He’s never bumbling, his actions always calculated.  His stone-face is counterpoint to Armie Hammer’s stammering reluctant hero, the big-city lawyer turned titular wild-west vigilante.

The production was hobbled by high-profile delays that slashed the ballooning budget and scuttled an entire sub-plot about werewolves.  There’s still evidence of this missing story thread, including (baffingly) carnivorous bunnies, a cursed silver mine and an amputee Madame played by Helena Bonham Carter.

Like Rango, this is director Gore Verbinski riffing again on his favourite Spaghetti Westerns.  The fingerprints of genre grandmaster Sergio Leone are all over this sucker.  Breathtaking vistas, grotesque close-ups, a twisted sense of humour… even the score by Hans Zimmer cribs the immortal themes Ennio Morricone composed for Leone’s legendary dusters.  When Zimmer’s take on the classic Lone Ranger theme finally kicks in the movie doesn’t just sing, it soars.

Verbinski is one of the greatest directors of elaborate action sequences since Steven Spielberg.  His set-pieces may be frightfully overstuffed, but they’re always clear-eyed and kinetic in the way most modern action movies aren’t.  The Lone Ranger is like the giant steam engine which figures so prominently in the film’s climax.  It takes a while to get going, but once it’s chugging the ride is quicksilver smooth and a helluva lot of fun.  It barrels along breathlessly, fueled by daring-do, off-beat laughs and a propulsive climax that left me wanting not just more, but more of the same.

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