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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jul 21, 2013

"The Lone Ranger" Movie Review: Johnny Depp Misses On This One As Tonto

THE FIRST Western we saw in the early days of TV was “The Lone Ranger”, in black and white in the late 50s, starring Clayton Moore as the masked ranger, with Jay Silverheels as his Indian sidekick, Tonto, and the signature “William Tell Overture” as its theme music. The new big screen version by the guys who made the hit “Pirates of the Caribbean” series (Jerry Bruckheimer as producer, Gore Verbinski as director) is now an origin story of how “The Lone Ranger” started.

They’re probably hoping it’ll spawn a new series like “Pirates” but it’s a big flop, not only in the U.S. but also locally, so we doubt if it would have a sequel. The first complaint we have is that it’s too long at 2 hours and 30 minutes. The middle part is very long in talky exposition and really drags. You’d just wish they’d make the pacing faster.

Then there’s the fact that the real leading man here is not the titler roler but his supposed sidekick, Tonto. And this is only to be expected since he’s played by Johnny Depp no less. Armie Hammer (“Social Network”) is true blue Hollywood leading man material but the way he’s made to portray the bumbling man who’d be Lone Ranger makes him dumb and boring. As for Depp, he did wonders with his interpretation of Captain Jack Sparrow, but here, his Tonto is just plain weird and grotesque, what with a dead bird perched on his head who he tries to feed every now and then.

The structure of the film is also boring. It’s narrated by Tonto who’s a wrinkled old man when the story starts in 1933 in San Francisco. A boy dressed like a cowboy with a mask goes to a Wild West exhibit and sees a display of the Noble Savage. He thought it’s a statue but it suddenly talks to tell the boy the story of the Lone Ranger, which is told in flashbacks starting in the late 1860s when they were building the transcontinental railroad.

John Reid (Hammer), is a naive and by-the-book young lawyer who joins his brother Dan (James Badge Dale), a Texas Ranger, and Dan’s posse in searching for the escaped cannibalistic convict, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). They didn’t know they were set up to be ambushed. Everyone dies, but John miraculously survives, with the help of Tonto, who has a back story of his own. As a little boy, he causes the death of his own tribe members from greedy white men who are mining for silver, an example of American corporate greed and Indian genocide. Reid eventually becomes the Lone Ranger upon the suggestion of Tonto. He also gets a leading lady in Rebecca (Ruth Wilson), the widow of his late brother coveted by the scheming train company executive, Cole (Tom Wilkinson).

The film picks up only towards the rousing climax and achieves full glory when we finally hear the signature “William Tell Overture” being played, with the Lone Ranger astride on his white horse saying “Hi Yo Silver Away”. We are then treated to several spectacularly staged chase sequences aboard speeding trains.

The film is beautifully shot, amidst all those classic Western locations like Monument Valley. The big-budget opening sequences and the closing ones are the best action set pieces of the movie. But let’s face it, today’s young audiences are no longer crazy for Westerns like our own generation who were enthralled by the likes of “Shane” or “The Searchers”. “The Lone Ranger” no longer rings a bell for them. Westerns are passé, unless it’s modernized like “Cowboys Vs. Aliens” with Daniel Craig.