Having flogged his Cap’n Jack Sparrow character to within an inch of its life in Pirates of the Caribbean, Johnny Depp must have eyed up the role of Tonto, native American sidekick to Armie Hammer’s Lone Ranger, as a nice little money spinner in what could, presumably, have become a franchise.
But oops, Johnny, boy did you take your eye off the ball because despite the eye-watering $250 million Disney poured into this project, it just never grows cinematic wings and takes flight.
The film suffers from a series of faults that taken singly would not have sunk it, but lumped together in its vastly overstretched two and a half hour running time make it appear clunky and erratic. The main problem is the movie can’t make up its mind if it’s a comedy or a straight Western.
While the storyline revolves around brutal murder and bloody revenge, Depp in face paint and a dead bird stuck on his head plays it for laughs. This strange disjuncture is evident in other elements of the film; Helena Bonham-Carter as a tart with a heart and a pistol in her ivory false leg, while the baddie responsible for the loss of her limb (William Fichtner) has the unsavoury habit of cutting the hearts out of his victims. In fact, for a supposed family film (certificate 12A) The Long Ranger is surprisingly blood-thirsty with a huge body count, especially during the massacre of an entire native American tribe.
You might wonder where this leaves the titular lead character. Well, poor old Armie Hammer is totally sidelined as the outlawed lawman by the shenanigans of Depp and a script that leaves him with very little to do except look good and solid-jawed while riding his trusty steed, Silver. In fact, during the action sequences it is Silver who steals the show. Even the spectacular last chase along the roofs of not one but two busily huffing and puffing steam trains, all choreographed to the William Tell Overture, leaves the Lone Ranger pretty lonely and playing second fiddle to Depp and the bad boys who get to steal the action thunder.
The film has bombed in the States and it is easy to see why; audiences want to be entertained and they like to know what kind of entertainment they are going to see. Fans of Depp in Pirates probably thought The Lone Ranger would be more of the rip-roaring same and not a movie that can’t make up its mind if it wants to be serious and make serious statements or be a bust a gut, slapstick comedy.
And could somebody please explain the significance of the cannibal rabbits and why the hell they have a cameo in a Wild West movie?