Director Gore Verbinski’s “The Lone Ranger” is a thrill-packed and often hilarious take on how the Ranger and Tonto came to be.
The entertainment value comes with the delightful pairing of Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger. The chemistry between the two as they exchange quip for quip is palpable. One could almost call this a buddy flick if it weren’t for some of the gravity behind the film. Both the Ranger and especially Tonto have serious back-stories, and in Tonto’s case, his story is fully developed.
Based on the black and white television show of the 1950s, the rebooted “Lone Ranger” is packed with shoot’em ups, explosions and some very witty dialogue. With screenplay and story by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, the film’s main problem is that it can’t decide if it wants to be a full-out comedy or not. At times it veers from one extreme to the other. I’m not a screenwriter, but it seems to me that there had to be a way to make this a dramedy without the jarring shifts in tone.
We are first introduced to an old Tonto in a Wild West museum in 1933 San Francisco. The Tonto “statue” comes to life before youngster, Will, a museum visitor. Encouraged by Will, Tonto haltingly begins to tell his tale and the action shifts to 1869 Colby, Texas. Without giving too much away, the story basically revolves around the meeting of Tonto and the Ranger, some of the villainous chicanery behind the transcontinental railroad in the form of Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson), the pursuit of Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and the resolution of some personal demons.
“The Lone Ranger” boasts a terrific supporting cast, most notably the aforementioned Wilkinson and Fichtner, as well as James Badge Dale as the Ranger’s older brother, Dan; Ruth Wilson as Dan’s wife, Rebecca; and Barry Pepper as Captain Jay Fuller. Helena Bonham Carter is also involved in a highly unusual way.
“The Lone Ranger” is full of mind-boggling stunts. Although Depp and Hammer did many of their own stunts, if you stay through the credits you’ll see that they were assisted by an additional 300 stunt people to pull them off (I exaggerate a little, but not much). The scenes on the train are just spectacular…and the horses and rabbits are no slouches either. There are special effects, but they actually propel the story and never interfere with its telling. Hans Zimmer’s score works beautifully with the action and the familiar “Lone Ranger” theme, the William Tell Overture, is used just at the appropriate time.
As noted earlier,“The Lone Ranger” is not without its flaws. But the film is highly entertaining and never dull. Should there be a sequel, I will be at the front of the line.