Rating: PG-13 (sequences of intense action and violence, some suggestive material)
Length: 149 minutes
Release Date: July 3, 2013
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Stars: 3 out of 5
In the opening minutes of “The Lone Ranger,” Tonto (Johnny Depp) is an old man working in a circus sideshow tent who meets a young boy dressed as a cowboy. This jars some deep-seeded memories for the old Comanche Indian, who begins to regale the young boy with tales of his friend John Reid (Armie Hammer). The film then flashes back to Reid, a Harvard-educated lawyer who believes in the law and sees the world as being very black-and-white. His world is soon turned to shades of gray after a fateful trip on a hijacked train in which he meets Tonto.
After Reid and Tonto survive the pulse-pounding train incident, Reid arrests Tonto because he believes him to be a fugitive, despite the fact that Tonto just saved his life. Soon, despite their disparate statuses in life, they are thrown together again and realize they have a mutual enemy in Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). Butch, who is a closet cannibal, killed Reid’s brother Dan (James Badge Dale) and had a hand in the slaughter of many of Tonto’s fellow Comanches years earlier. Tonto convinces Reid to join him in his revenge quest because he believes that Reid is a spirit walker, a legendary person who can’t be killed. Reid reluctantly agrees, though he doesn’t believe his is a spirit walker and doesn’t really trust Tonto just yet.
The duo begins to follow Butch’s trail, which leads them to Red Harrington (Helena Bonham Carter, nearly stealing the show), who gives them advice and sends them on their way. They soon track down Butch and his posse, but he evades their grasp on several occasions, setting up a climatic ending. The ending puts the lives of Tonto, Reid, railroad baron Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson) and love interest Rebecca (Ruth Wilson) in danger. It’s a worthy ending for an exciting, action-packed summer film.
“The Lone Ranger” makes some pretty big improvements upon the radio show source material, not the least of which is fleshing out the character of Tonto. In the radio show, Tonto was quickly added to the cast in order to give Reid someone to talk to. He was basically a plot device to give the Lone Ranger more talking time. In the television show, he was given a true backstory, which the film expands upon greatly. The audience gets to know Tonto and his sorrow, making him a relatable character despite the fact that he is a bit weird. The tragic story of how he came to be a man apart from his tribe is heartbreaking and well delivered, and it might make more than a few eyes in the theater a bit misty.
Depp has a penchant for playing oddball characters such as Captain Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series and the title character in “Edward Scissorhands.” He keeps that streak going with Tonto, making the character a little bit quirky while still giving him intelligence and respectability. In the hands of a lesser actor, trying to balance this complicated character would be tough, but Depp makes it look easy. He gets the lion’s share of the film’s many one-liners, giving the more serious scenes and action sequences some welcome levity. He also has some character quirks that give him personality, such as his incessant feeding of the dead bird on his hat and his deadpan reactions to some fairly dangerous pickles that he and Reid seem to get into. All of these quirks and personality tics easily make Tonto the most interesting and fun character in the film, all thanks to Depp’s acting ability.
In the months prior to the release of the film, “Man of Steel” and “Iron Man 3” were both released to big fanfare and box-office receipts. In many ways, “The Lone Ranger” is the final film in the summer 2013 superhero trilogy. Sure, Reid and Tonto have no actual superhuman skills, but then again neither does Iron Man outside of his suit. If Reid really is a spirit walker who can’t be killed, then he definitely qualifies as a superhero by almost any measure. He may bungle things on occasion, be woefully unaware of how square he is, and frequently need the help of his sidekick, but the Lone Ranger stands for justice and doing the right thing. Isn’t that what superheroes are all about? In a summer full of superheroes who are going through some dark times and are more than a bit angst-ridden on occasion, the escapist romp that is “The Lone Ranger” is a true standout.
Watch behind the scenes of “The Lone Ranger”