Movie review: 'Lone Ranger' better keep the mask on

July 3, 2013 

By Lynn Venhaus

For the News-Democrat

What It's About

Weird, disjointed and sluggish, "The Lone Ranger" is a pathetic attempt to re-invent the iconic figures of the 1930s radio serial and popular '60s TV show in an over-the-top western that is just a mess.

In the wild, wild West, the railroad will change everything. And there are nefarious greedy frontier leaders who will be happy to grease their palms while spouting progress -- (Tom Wilkinson) and ruthless outlaws (William Fichtner nearly unrecognizable as Butch Cavendish).

Texas Ranger John Reid (Armie Hammer) gets caught in the middle of the mess while trying to avenge his brother Dan's death. Reluctantly, he teams up with Tonto (Johnny Depp), a native American with a mission of his own.


Armie Hammer shows his limitations as a leading man. He's classically handsome and was impressive in "The Social Network" as the snobby Winklevoss twins and decent in "J. Edgar," but he can't overcome his wooden tendencies and limited range. As John Reid, aka the Lone Ranger, he has to play the noble and dashing hero, and he's in over his head.

Johnny Depp made four "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies with the director, and they obviously have a tight collaboration. His taciturn Tonto is rather one-note, although he attempts to develop a quirky character.

What Works

Imaginative camera angles are used. Verbinski demonstrated a vivid intellect during "Rango," his Oscar-winning animated feature. But here the whimsical choices seem odd.

The first time we hear "The Lone Ranger" theme song, it evokes nostalgia. After the third time the William Tell Overture is used, we've heard enough.

What Doesn't Work

Eccentricity was the constant theme early on, and it doesn't work within this dramatic framework. Uneven in tone, the convoluted story quickly unravels.

Bombastic action sequences are too long, but they do interrupt the tedium. Heroes get in a pickle, are captured and escape. Bad guys are foiled, are captured and escape. Repeat until the conflict seems pointless.

Better editing and sharper writing could have improved this project.

1 1/2 stars out of 4

Director: Gore Verbinski

Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner

Length: 2:30

Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material

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