'The Lone Ranger' reboot goes goofy and grim
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 rode 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 Capt. 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.
Roger Moore reviews movies for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.