As Hollywood continues to mine the vaults of our collective pop-culture past for new (old) ideas, relaunching The Lone Ranger probably didn’t sound like a bad idea: The Wild West still manages to seem like a fresh setting in a Michael Bay world; it would be a great vehicle for not one, but two charismatic stars; and it comes with a ready-made, instantly recognizable kicky theme song.
But I knew that this wasn’t your typical Lone Ranger when, in one of the early scenes, the bad guys slaughter a group of Texas Rangers in an ambush that wouldn’t have been out of place in Saving Private Ryan. Then as the men lay dead or dying, the bandit ringleader is shown to be a cannibal. What. The. Eff? (Insert shocked emoticon!)
Armie Hammer plays John Reid, the lone survivor of the ambush (hence the “Lone Ranger”!). It was his brother that had his heart ripped from his chest and eaten (again: !!!), so he is bent on bringing the bad guys to justice, as only a good lawman would do. He is helped in his quest by a crafty Native American named Tonto (Johnny Depp, surprisingly flat), who is a bit of a reluctant stone-faced partner. Thrown in a shifty railroad baron (Tom Wilkinson), a love interest (Ruth Wilson, so there is someone to kiss at the end), and even a General, who sure looks a heck of a lock like Custer, without being named as such (Barry Pepper), and you’ve got a mess of a movie. It goes on way too long, veering all over the place with its uneven tone (comedy? or Dances With Wolves?), bursts of violence (again: cannibalism!), and dearth of fun (why isn’t this funny?).
By the time the “William Tell Overture” finally kicks in over two hours into the movie, it is too little too late.
The only positive thing, really, was Helena Bonham Carter as a brothel madam with a shotgun leg (yes!). It was like she showed up to star in a different, sassier movie. Unfortunately, her presence is so brief, that you are just left pondering the fun movie that The Lone Ranger could have, and should have been.