- Western, Comedy-Drama
- Running time
- 149 min
- Gore Verbinski
- Screen writer
- Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott
- Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner
- OFLC rating
Fittingly enough, Monument Valley has a large role in The Lone Ranger, Gore Verbinski's $US225million ($245million) attempt to pump new life into the Hollywood Western.
John Wayne spent some of the most memorable moments of his career prowling around the valley's crags and mesas in the movies he made for John Ford. Now it's Johnny Depp's turn. Wearing a mud facepack and a dead crow on his head, he's playing Tonto, the Lone Ranger's Indian sidekick, promoted, in this version, to become the brains of the partnership.
Sidekick: Johnny Depp as Tonto. Photo: Supplied
The film belongs to that fashionable sub-genre, the ''origin story'', meaning that we get to know how the Lone Ranger came by his mask, white hat and urge to go after bad guys. And it's so lavishly stocked with movie references that you can amuse yourself – if you can find the time – by conducting your own quiz.
And you probably will find the time. While the stunt work is relentless, the film runs to an excessive 2½ hours and action is often confused with mere movement. The script's first drafts were written by the team responsible for all four of Verbinski's Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Then they were re-written by Justin Haythe, who worked with Sam Mendes on the supremely depressing Revolutionary Road. Despite the oddness of this mix, the one-liners and the deadpan touches are more reliable than the early reviews suggest, as are Depp's timing and delight in being able to play dress-ups again. It's just that there's too much of everything.
On the plus side, the whole cast works hard, invigorated, I suppose, by the chance to lay on lashings of ham. The Lone Ranger is played by the towering Armie Hammer (The Social Network) as an impossibly handsome innocent who's often outraged while being continually bewildered. Tom Wilkinson is just recognisable under a thicket of whiskers as a sinister railroad tycoon, and Helena Bonham Carter shows up as the owner of a travelling bordello-cum-circus. And because she likes costume parties as much as Depp does, she's scored a prosthetic leg made of ivory with a shotgun built into the heel.
The Lone Ranger's real name is John Reid and he's returning by train to his home town in the West after doing a law degree at Harvard. He's reading John Locke's Treatise on Government, which has given him earnest ideas about the importance of the legal system. And these are about to be put to the test. The film's number one villain (William Fichtner) is locked in the guard van and he's about to escape despite the efforts of Tonto, who's been put in the guard van with him for unspecified crimes.
The events that follow take us to at least three states and involve the demolition of several trains and a suspension bridge as well as many smaller items and their occupants.
Verbinski and his stunt people have shown great ingenuity with the mechanics of their mayhem-making. As choreography, it's brilliant. As drama, it's hopeless since they've somehow managed to engineer a suspense by-pass.
First up, Reid's older brother, the town marshal, is killed, which means he is now free to flirt with the dead man's widow (British actress Ruth Wilson), who also happens to be his former sweetheart. This is the Donna Reed role. But all thoughts of romance are sidelined after she's kidnapped by the outlaws. Tonto and Reid now have to spend most of the movie getting her back, a business that has her morphing from Donna Reed into Pearl White, the tormented star of the silent classic The Perils of Pauline.
You can certainly see how the film's budget was spent but rather than this being a good thing, it's depressing. It's not as if the film is spectacularly bad. The pity of it all springs from the fact that so much money, time, effort and talent has gone into something so ordinary. And in the world of the Hollywood blockbuster, this sort of thing is happening all the time.