RATING: 1.5 stars (out of 4)
A kill-crazy Disney movie with a heart of hi-yo silver, The Lone Ranger sets out to explain why exactly the Ranger is alone. And that’s the one area it absolutely nails. He’s very much an idiot, as reckless with his own life as the countless others he causes to die through his stupidity. Not to mention his recklessness with your time because the movie seems to last as long as all the episodes of the 1949-1957 TV series combined.
Armie Hammer, known for playing two guys who shared the same brain – the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network – plays one guy with half a brain here. Should you find yourself dragged to the endless action flick by a group of witless friends or family, I recommend bringing one of those hand clickers used by ticket takers at county fairs and using it to add up all the ludicrous, inexplicable activities the so-called hero does only to prolong the idiotic story. At least that will give you something to do other than roll your eyes.
At his side is Johnny Depp as Tonto, the Native American sidekick. Knowing full well there’s no other way to play the character than as an embarrassing racist caricature, Depp goes just as much all in as he did as Captain Jack Sparrow in the 55 Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He uses broken English to tell the Ranger how stupid he is throughout the movie as he keeps having to rescue him, neurotically cares for his dead pet bird/spirit animal hat and is fond of blessing people, things and places by mystically spilling dirt on them. Depp also doubles as the narration device, a version of Tonto who is in his 90s and working at a carnival freak show, telling his long, long story to a little kid whose parents don’t seem to miss him.
The true freak show, though, is the film itself – a slap-happy cartoon that takes a family-friendly premise to gruesome places. It’s filled with expensive, elaborate stunts that make no sense and a winding, weird story involving cheerful Native American genocide, working on the railroad all the livelong day, a whorehouse madame with an ivory cannon leg, cannibalistic jackrabbits and an annoying little kid and his mom who are even better at screwing everything up than the Ranger. Oh, and death. Lots of senseless slaughter.
The movie kills more people than smallpox and dysentery did in Oregon Trail. You have a bloodthirsty villain – one the Ranger has about a hundred chances to kill but constantly lets escape because he doesn’t want to be mean and kill him – who cuts inside a dude’s body, pulls out his heart and munches it like a Hot Pocket. There are Union cavalry wasting Comanche braves with machine gun fire. You have desert snipers picking off posse members one-by-one with headshots. And there are massacres of entire villages and outposts. One time, a horse even plops dead for comic effect.
I’m all for senseless violence in movies, but there is so much death and destruction going on here, you start to wish something nice would happen for once (like maybe someone would get a cookie or something). Although no cookies materialize, there is plenty of wackiness to perk up your eyes during the horse carriage-paced yarn. Horses trot atop trains, the Ranger and Tonto outrun exploding fire in a cave and the little kid suffers a backhand pimp slap. Those moments may have made me smile but not enough to hope the movie succeeds enough to launch a Pirates-like series. This Ranger is best left ‘lone.
Starring Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, Barry Pepper, Ruth Wilson and Helena Bonham Carter. Written by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. Directed by Gore Verbinski. 149 minutes. Rated PG-13.