Disney heads to the Wild West for The Lone Ranger, a rollicking action film that's a good time, though it's not without its problems. Armie Hammer takes the lead role as John Reid (aka Lone Ranger), a lawyer-turned-vigilante who gets caught up in an adventure involving an organ-eating villain, a lot of silver, and one ornery Native American named Tonto (Johnny Depp). Depp in an ornate costume plus treasure plus action sounds an awful lot like a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and given that The Lone Ranger is also directed by three-time Pirates director Gore Verbinski, it's no surprise that this film feels like Jack Sparrow and co. just moved westward.
Our yet-to-be-masked hero John first encounters Tonto while traveling by train to see his brother and family. Through a series of mishaps, John and Tonto end up shackled together while notorious criminal Butch Cavendish (a hideously scarred William Fichtner) escapes custody and conveniently disables the train's brakes. Despite a rocky beginning, John and Tonto grudgingly agree to work together when they realize Butch — rumored to have a habit of eating the still-beating hearts of his victims — is responsible for the deaths of their loved ones. Their pursuit of Butch is just the tip of the iceberg; along the way John and Tonto uncover an even bigger scandal involving a cave full of silver and corruption along the railways. Despite so many elements, the film sags a bit in the middle before a triumphant finish. Get more of my thoughts on The Lone Ranger when you read more.
Hammer's evolution as lawman John Reid to Lone Ranger is impressive, though he doesn't quite have the clout to headline a film like this. Good thing the reliable Depp is at his side! Tonto provides much of the comic relief as the stoic sidekick with limited verbiage and a dry sense of humor.
The Lone Ranger has a compelling setup, but the movie is just too long. There are too many filler scenes, including a bizarre running commentary from the future. Yes, the future. The movie starts with a kid visiting a museum in the present day and chatting with the centuries-old Tonto as "The Noble Savage" inside an exhibit window. Sound weird? It is, and the tactic only functions to take up time. The movie would be perfectly fine without it.
It may take a while to get there, but there is some truly thrilling action, especially when the The Lone Ranger theme music finally kicks in during the final big train chase. It's pure, adventurous fun, with our heroes leaping impossibly in, on, between, and through train cars. The movie doesn't have a ton of blood, but with some gruesome violence implied (and partially shown), The Lone Ranger definitely earns its PG-13 rating. With its dashing hero, clever sidekick, and great action, it also warrants a trip to the theater.