Sunday, July 14, 2013

Film Review: Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger

Ya know, despite the slew (and I do mean slew) of vicious, biting reviews railing against the film, and despite my own aversions to seeing the film after seeing how the trailers made it look like it more than would deserve such aforementioned vicious and biting railings, and despite the fact that Johnny Depp, an actor I once held in high regard, has become nothing more than a one-trick pony joke over the last few years or so, despite all of these things (and quite powerful things indeed), I must admit, and bravely so considering, that I found Gore verbinski's The Lone Ranger to be a surprisingly entertaining piece of moviemaking.  Yeah, I said it, so there!

Okay, okay, maybe I am getting a little too big for my so-called britches, here.  No, this newest version of The Lone Ranger (about as "successful" as that other ode to radio/early television type of movie of recent years, The Green Hornet), is by no means a great, classic-to-be movie.  No, Verbinski's overblown (but I am not saying being overblown is bad, mind you) extravaganza is nowhere near the level of something like Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West, a film that Verbinski more than acknowledges on multiple counts, but really, this critic does not understand the level a dissatisfaction heaped upon this movie by every blowhard critic and non-critic out there (forward thinking critics such as Matt Zoller Seitz, who praises the film even more than I do, notwithstanding).  Everything about the film satisfies this critic, forward thinking or not.  It is pure popcorn entertainment that never fails to please, but it is really more than just that.  Yeah, I said that too, so there!

Seriously though, from Verbinski's direction to Depp's Tonto, the film flies with high adventure, in the old school serial/cliffhanger style. Sure, both director and actor were better in the animated Rango, a sort of crafty and sly uncle to this film (a film, that even though animated, was less cartoonish than this film, but again, not necessarily a put down) but this film still had the most basic fundamentals of good, classic storytelling.  Armie Hammer, the heelariously inept Winklevii from The Social Network, is a breath of proverbial fresh air as the titular masked man.  A sort of Cary Grant meets Gary Cooper kinda thing.  Depp is surprisingly good in the role of faithful sidekick-cum-crazed lunatic, especially considering the once seemingly versatile actor now just plays the same character over and over and over again, be it in the form of a vampire, a pirate, a Madd Hatter or even an iconic Native American hero of legend and lore.  Here he channels more along the lines of one of the actor's idol;s, Buster Keaton, and this works wonders for a character that has always been seen as some sort of Injun Stepin Fetchit, here transformed into the strongest character in the whole damn film.

Combine this with an obvious love of the Western and Hollywood history itself from Verbinski (we can see, along with the aforementioned Mr. Leone, such homages to everything from Blazing Saddles to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and Depp and Hammer perfectly playing off of each other's strengths and weaknesses - not to mention Helena Bonham-Carter as a madame with a shotgun for a leg and villain William Fichtner eating another man's heart (a scene that is wonderfully shot) - and even the most jaded of critics and nay-sayers really cannot be so put off by the film that by the time the revered William Tell Overture finally kicks in in the climactic Verbinski more-is-always-more chase scene, and Hammer and Depp (and let us not forget Silver, who often steals the show) kick themselves into high heroic gear, they too are not tapping their feet along with the film.  The Lone Ranger, as loud and as abrasive as it wants to be (and surprisingly deep in a few moments as well) is veritable head and shoulders above what gets by as typical Summer blockbuster movie fare these days.  Naysayers be damned, the movie is fun dammit, so there!


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