After recently browsing the video aisles at our local library branch, I borrowed The Lone Ranger, Gore Verbinski’s 2013 take on the old Lone Ranger radio and classic Western tv character. It stars Armie (Armie?) Hammer as John Reid / the Lone Ranger, and Johnny Depp as Tonto. The tale is about the origins of the Lone Ranger as he seeks revenge on escaped criminal Butch Cavendish (played by notable character actor William Ficht.) The film also stars Tom Wilkinson (he was the secret villain in a few movies, and Ruth Wilson who I thought was fantastic in the BBC series Luther.
So this film was a bit odd. It begins with a young boy in the early 1930s dressed up as a cowboy visiting a traveling circus/fair in San Francisco. He apparently meets Tonto at an attraction — Johnny Depp in very old man makeup. Tonto begins to recite the origin tale of the Lone Ranger to both the incredulous boy (and the incredulous audience.) During the film, we revisit young boy and old Tonto a number of times.
The film tells the tale about how Butch Cavendish escapes imprisonment, ends up killing all of the local Texas Rangers, including John Reid’s brother. John Reid is a prim and somewhat stuckup attorney moving out to this Texas town. Reid somehow survives, meets up with Tonto, and they fight / cooperate as they jointly go after Cavendish for justice / revenge. That is the initial story, but much like many films these days, you get a sense early on that there is a bigger conspiracy afoot.
Why did they cast Johnny Depp as a Native American, not sure, but it seems he is the feature character. Both Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp come from Disney’s Pirates franchise, and while Hammer plays the hero, Depp does a lot of goof acting (like the Native American version of Jack Sparrow) to add in the comedic relief. So much so that it contributes to this odd but consistent change in tone. You have the goofy comedy, but then you have the villain gutting people. It is an action adventure, a buddy film, but also a film with odd mystical overtones as the Ranger supposedly cannot be killed in battle. And then you have constant pullback to Old Tonto and the kid in the fair.
The kids want to watch the film, but I haven’t decided how to treat the violent portions of the film. It feels like either there were too many writers or Verbinski or Disney couldn’t decide what kind of film to make. However, through all of it, Johnny Depp can be Jack Sparrow and potentiall attract the audience. It wasn’t a terrible film, but it couldn’t decide what it was, and I was confused on how to mesh the comedy with the violence.