The first thing audiences need to know about The Lone Ranger is it throws the tradition of the titular character out the window, save his framework passion for justice. Some may feel that this is in fact an injustice to the legacy of the iconic Western character. But, what it is in Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger, is a means to an ends.
Sure, it may seem that Disney has been marketing their latest film as led by Johnny Depp… as shown in The Lone Ranger trailer. Which is funny, it appears, given that his character Tonto is the sidekick to the Lone Ranger’s hero.
But in the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action fest with a message (yes, you read that right) -- this is the Lone Ranger story from the Native American point of view. The theme is the cost of progress and how the railroad literally railroaded America’s native peoples to the verge of extinction.
The story starts on two fronts: Tonto’s and John Reid’s (the Lone Ranger). Reid is returning to his Western home after law school and what was a budding career as a lawyer. He seeks to be closer to his roots and his brother, Dan (James Badge Dale). There is hinted that his brother’s wife (Ruth Wilson as Rebecca Reid) and him had a romantic past, but that it fizzled when John left town. Rebecca and Dan have a young boy who is meant to serve as a pivotal plot point, but more often than not… he is simply window dressing.
William Fichtner stars as Butch Cavendish, who we meet arrested and chained with Tonto on a train careening towards the Reids' hometown. The devilish Cavendish is rescued by an evil posse and John must ride with Dan’s Rangers to bring him (back) to justice. Oh, and that Tonto guy might have something to say about it.
But as the second The Lone Ranger movie trailer showed, the Rangers are gunned down and all are perceived dead. Tonto digs a grave for all of them… when John awakes. Tonto implores him to seek justice, wearing that iconic mask -- because his enemies believe he is dead, and it is best to have them keep thinking that.
If there is a problem with The Lone Ranger, it is that the pacing is a little off and it takes quite a while to truly get going. There are too many flashbacks, particularly with Tonto, that are frankly unnecessary to the overall plot that drives the film. We get why Tonto is working with the Lone Ranger, it does not need to be played out in front of us.
Tom Wilkinson’s Cole is a business leader who promises that the incoming railroad will bring the future to this small town. But, at what cost? And we also begin to wonder which side of the law he truly is on.
The highlight, our The Lone Ranger review can easily state, is the chemistry between Hammer and Depp. These two are fantastic and we would welcome more chapters in their adventure. Almost eclipsing them is Fichtner, whose depth of Old West demonry is astounding.
Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger is a Western with a conscience. Not only does Johnny Depp make amends for a century of Hollywood portraying Native Americans as stereotypes, but their message of connectedness to the land permeates the entire film. See, it is fitting that Depp gets top billing. Not because he is the bigger movie star. But it is simply because his character and his character’s people drive the moral compass.