Arts Review, The Arts
Photo from youtube.com
Gore Verbinski, director
Starring: Johnny Depp (Tonto), Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger/John Reid), William Fichtner (Butch Cavendish), Tom Wilkinson (Latham Cole), Barry Pepper (Capt. Jay Fuller), Helena Bonham Carter (Red Harrington), Ruth Wilson (Rebecca Reid, Dan’s wife), James Badge Dale (Dan Reid), Mason Cook (Will).
Somewhere between $210 and $250 million was spent on this film, which is directed by Gore Verbinski and stars Johnny Depp with a script by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott, who combined forces on launching the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. This time, the Disney backed team were supposed to reignite one of America’s classic radio and TV shows The Lone Ranger. The anticipation was enormous.
Western; comedy; spectacle
A boy looking at a diorama depicting a “noble savage” in a 1930s county fair is suddenly confronted by the real thing. Tonto, an ancient “Indian” sporting a dead crow as haberdashery, starts telling Will, the young lad, about his days as a companion to the Lone Ranger back in the days of the Wild West. As the rest of the film unfolds, the narrative swings back to Tonto and Will whenever the story begins to strain credulity.
Meanwhile, back in 1869, John Reid, a tinhorn lawyer travelling on a train to meet his lawman brother Dan, is unaware that Tonto and killer Butch Cavendish are tied up in a boxcar, waiting to be taken prisoner and hanged by the Texas Rangers. Of course, Dan is the main Texas Ranger but before the train arrives at the station, Cavendish’s desperados attack the train and free Butch. Dan and John along with four other Rangers take off in hot pursuit of Cavendish but they’re ambushed and only John survives. Tonto explains to John that he can wear a mask and ride a mysterious white horse that has just arrived on the scene but the city slicker will have none of it. He simply wants to catch Cavendish.
Over the next two hours (yep the film is 149 minutes), Reid consistently denies his fate as The Lone Ranger. Tonto alternately helps and derides him. Reid refuses to wear a mask or shoot Cavendish. Meanwhile, it becomes clear that Cavendish has a nefarious partner, Latham Cole, the operator of the railroad. The two are corrupt and greedy and ruthless: ready to exploit the West for their own dreadful avarice and ambition.
Eventually (and it takes hours!), Reid rises to the occasion, and with a hearty “Hi-Yo Silver” amid the stirring sounds of Rossini’s William Tell Overture, The Lone Ranger and Tonto ride to the rescue of the pioneer settlers.
Johnny Depp may not be Native at all. Or he might be 1/16th First Nations in heritage. But he certainly gives a full-blooded performance as Tonto. He’s wildly funny and taciturn: the Buster Keaton of the West.
Depp effectively blows Armie Hammer off the screen, which is too bad because the film is called The Lone Ranger, not Tonto.
Also good are Tom Wilkinson as the villainous Cole and Helena Bonham Carter as a whorehouse madam.
The creative team
What went wrong? This film makes fun of its lead, The Lone Ranger, nearly all the time. Is the film supposed to be a satire or a homage to the Wild West? It’s hard to tell—and way too long.
Depp’s tall tales recall those of Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man, a wonderful revisionist Western from 1970, which had as its co-star Chief Dan George, of the BC Salish tribe. The Chief’s performance inaugurated a series of great performances by Canada’s First Nations, including Graham Greene (of the Six Nations) in Dances with Wolves and Gary Farmer (of the Wolf clan) in Dead Man, which co-starred as the white man, Johnny Depp. Few seem to remember that the original TV Tonto was played by Jay Silverheels, who was a Canadian Mohawk. Yes, my friends, we’re going backwards, even during these purportedly politically correct days.
Far worse than this eradication of Native People (and Canadians!) is the tale of the Lone Ranger himself. Who decided to revive an ancient TV and radio character who is barely known by this generation? Who decided to lampoon the character?
Somebody at Disney should have said: “Love the Lone Ranger or the leave the story alone.” That didn’t happen.
Instead this mess occurred. My suggestion? Let’s all jump on our white steeds and shout out, “Hi-Yo Silver, Away!”