'The Lone Ranger' Review: Split Personality Yields Shallow Summer Escapism

Disney’s The Lone Ranger is a strange concoction. At times, it plays like a goofy blockbuster but at other times, it feels like a self-important story. Bloated beyond belief, the Johnny Depp vehicle accomplishes some of what it set out to do and ends up being a decent—though not spectacular—summer spectacle.


Depp stars as Tonto, a Native American whose head is adorned with a dead bird that he feeds sporadically. Early on, he meets a naïve do-gooder named John Reid (Armie Hammer), whose respect for the law knows few bounds. John is a lawman who wants to do justice in the world while Tonto is a realist who understands that laws—and sometimes powerful men— must be fought against. The duo have little in common and go their separate ways until John and his noble brother Dan (James Badge Dale) are attacked alongside a group of Dan's allies.

Dan is murdered in cold blood and his monstrous attacker cuts out his heart in a scene that is sure to frighten off some children (although most of the brutality occurs offscreen).

Tonto eventually finds John’s body and realizes that John is something special. He is, as Tonto notes, a warrior "who cannot be killed in battle." Working alongside Tonto, John seeks to bring his brother—and his brother’s wife, who John previously loved— justice.

Over the course of nearly two and a half hours, the duo finds themselves fighting their enemies and encountering strange characters along the way. The story extends for way too long but is often interrupted by great moments of levity, which lighten up the sometimes serious proceedings. Tonto’s horse, for instance, is an underused source of comedic mischief for its bizarre behavior.

The story is weakened by some of its crude notes of humor, which could have easily been excised from the proceedings.

Director Gore Verbinski helmed this project, which feels like a western follow-up to his Pirates of the Carribean features. Fortunately, this adventure is more like the original Pirates rather than its lowly sequels, but this production lacks the originality and spontaneity of that film, which brought Depp an Oscar nomination. Instead of creating a fanciful pirate from scratch there, the actor seems to be playing a Native American version of Jack Sparrow (or one of his many other odd characters) here. The role still suits him well and Depp is a sport for bringing this colorful character to life.

There’s much to dislike about The Lone Ranger. From the large cast of characters—it’s hard to keep track of who’s trying to kill who—to its running time, the film could easily have been cut down to its core essentials. Still, I found myself enjoying this escapist adventure. When the action-packed finale arrived, the story still had my attention, which let me enjoy that well-chereographed scene for what it was: an ambitious ode to the old television show.      

Pirates of the Carribbean, this film is not. But it is a fun and lightweight escapist pleasure. If you’re willing to sit in a theater for nearly two and a half hours, this adventure is worth riding along for.  


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