Gore Verbinski attaches electrodes to Walt Disney's nuts in this mad western folly with Johnny Depp.
"He was gonna violate me with a duck foot!" Which is just one of several moments during The Lone Ranger where you have to remind yourself you’re watching a Disney movie. Another pick of The Lone Ranger’s eyebrow-raisers? One character cutting another character’s heart out. Then eating it.
Back in 2003, it was director Gore Verbinski who gave the Mouse House its first ever PG-13 movie. The fact that it happened to be the beginning of a multi-billion-dollar franchise perhaps explains why the Pirates Of The Caribbean director has been given licence for such near-the-knuckle foolin' here.
Clearly hoping he can do the same thing for an iconic '50s duo as he did for a theme park ride, Disney have hosed a whopping $200m-plus budget on rebooting The Lone Ranger as a blockbusting big-screen tentpole. But the result is a little more interesting and a little less cynical than you might imagine.
Rewritten by Revolutionary Road screenwriter Justin Haythe, the script by Pirates pair Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio recasts soon-to-be-masked lawman John Reid (Armie Hammer) and Native American Tonto (Johnny Depp) as a Wild West Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, with the story told from the perspective of the Ranger’s sidekick. Who could quite easily be mad.
The Lone Ranger is an odd-couple buddy western with the emphasis on the odd: the entire tale is framed in flashback, narrated by a wisened Depp who is now a living museum exhibit. Throughout this mega-budget curio, Verbinski’s knowledge of the genre and his taste for the absurd — he won an Oscar for weirdo western 'toon Rango, remember — keeps popping up like a meerkat in a sand dune. Another surprise is William Fichtner’s hairlipped cannibal villain Butch Cavendish — not a pantomime baddie but a genuine villain. Filthy-skinned and rotten-toothed, he’s seriously unsettling.
The Lone Ranger is powered by a motor of ‘hate, murder and revenge’ that cuts right to the roots of the genre, with each character handed a traumatic backstory and a thirst for payback. Thing is, one of them has a dead bird on his head and the other one wears a ludicrously oversized white Stetson.
Hammer’s bumbling goody two-shoes, to be honest, isn’t a hugely compelling hero, but there’s a strong supporting cast — Helena Bonham Carter as a one-legged hooker, Tom Wilkinson as a railroad tycoon, James Badge Dale as Reid’s hotshot sheriff brother — and a performance from Depp that’s reined back from full caricature. Don’t get us wrong, The Lone Ranger is every bit as big, daft and clumsy as you’d expect. It’s predictably bloated at 149 minutes and there’s an uneven tension between the cartoony Disney blockbusting and the absurdo realism.
But the whole thing is top-and-tailed by two absolutely spectacular runaway train sequences which appear to reference more than one Buster Keaton romp. Flying as high as an eagle or scampering across the tracks like a lizard, Verbinski’s camerawork is off the-chain and the visual-effects are first class. It’s a bumpy ride, for sure. Disney, eat your heart out. Oh...
Pirates Of The Caribbean in the Wild West.
Hi-ho! Between the blockbustery popcorn-flogging there’s a vicious cannibal villain and some oddball surprises.
Bit of a weird one.