Film: "The Lone Ranger"; Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter, Barry Pepper, William Fichtner, and Mason Cook; Director: Gore Verbinski; Rating: *** 1/2
"The Lone Ranger" is a bloated, wild, wacky, mega-budget, wide-screen re-imagining of an iconic radio serial made in the early 1940s and a television series in 1956-57.
It is the story of John Reid (Armie Hammer) a masked hero, who is "out to right the wrongs", and his constant Indian sidekick Tonto (Johnny Depp). It is also the story of exploration and corruption during the early American history. The film is treated like a pulpy classic cowboy-western genre.
The narration of the "Lone Ranger" begins in a rather absurd fashion and resorts to flash backs that return now and then to the point of origination. The story starts with a wide-eyed kid (Mason Cook), wearing a white cowboy hat and a black mask, exploring the Wild West sort-of-a museum at the carnival show in 1933, San Francisco.
He stops at the counter labelled "The Noble Savage" to assess a wrinkly, arched figure with a mounted crow as a headgear. With the magic of a children's fable, the Indian comes alive. He is Tonto, and he gears up to tell the boy about John Reid, a learned lawyer from the East who arrived in Colby, Texas, back in 1869 with a copy of John Locke's "Two Treatises of Government" tucked under his arm.
Upon his arrival in Colby, John Reid is deputised as a Ranger by his macho brother Dan (James Badge Dale) in order to help arrest the notorious savage outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). But things do not go according to plan, and Reid ends up appearing dead.
The Comanche Indian - Tonto, who was initially accompanying Cavendish to Colby, nearly buries John. But, he is stopped at the nick of time when the legendary noble Spirit Horse appears and revives John. From thence begins their camaraderie and their journey to seek and deliver justice.
Director Gore Verbinski's epic is filled with numerous characters - outlaws, a greedy scheming railroad baron Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson), Rebecca (Ruth Wilson), a corrupt US marshal (Barry Pepper), a cagey one-legged brothel madam (Helena Bonham Carter), and two-faced pals and many more.
With two enormous action sequences set aboard speeding locomotives that bookend the film and occasionally peppered with comic exchanges between Tonto and John, the film is a spirited entertainer whenever it manages to take flight.
For the most part, Hammer plays straight man to Depp's enigmatic smart aleck. He has an amiable enough cinematic presence.
Depp as the sidekick Tonto in a weird get-up and weirder performance, constantly hams through. His sedate dialogue delivery with poker faced bluntness makes this "Depp-comedy" routine and staid. But, together they complement each other. They are funny and likeable at the same time.
Grimacing and scowling, occasionally eating human body part with demonic aplomb, Fichtner with his harelip and silver tooth is magnificent as Cavendish.
Wilkinson is all sinister charm as Latham Cole, the railroad magnate with a maniacal plan. Ruth Wilson as Rebecca, John's widowed sister-in-law and love angle is rustic but delivers what's required out of her.
Carter as the tough but decent prostitute with a porcelain leg that camouflages a gun, is wasted. She has nothing much to contribute in terms of narration nor histrionics.
With everything flung at you at the same pitch and speed, the film keeps you hooked. The film is certainly a visual delight, with beautiful John Ford-style vistas amalgamated with a score inspired by Ennio Morricone and action set pieces that minimise the use of CGI whenever possible. The film is also tinged with subtle touches of fantasy and myths.
Though the narration is scattered with plenty of weaknesses; an unevenness of tone, convoluted subplots and some tricky political echoes, it is the length of the film, which is nearly two hours and 29 minutes long that gets to your nerves.
Nevertheless, "The Lone Ranger" is one entertainer that will not leave your subconscious much after you left the theatre.