If this didn't come from Disney, it's hard to believe The Lone Ranger would have gotten away with a PG-13 rating. It might not be fun, entertaining, smartly written, or sharply paced, but one thing The Lone Ranger is is violent. Violent to the point that to recommend this film to any Disney-loving kid would perhaps taint said child's opinion of the Mouse House for life.
There's an almost-seen scalping, lots of vicious killings, and the brutal and visually aggressive slaughter of Indians. The Lone Ranger also seems to take pleasure in delivering to moviegoers the most tonally inconsistent, frustrating two and a half hours of 2013. And given the overwhelming poor quality of movies this year, that's quite an accomplishment.
As for the plot, it's a whole lot of nothing. Why Helena Bonham-Carter is in this film sporting an ivory leg that's a machine gun is just one of the weird twists of this bizarre mess that goes nowhere slowly. The story has something to do with silver mines, trains, fake Indian attacks, and an elderly crazy Indian (played by Johnny Depp) telling his story to a young boy in a Lone Ranger mask...or maybe it's all a tall tale whispered in his ear by the dead crow he wears on his head. My money's on the script being based on a fever dream that unfortunately fans of Johnny Depp, Gore Verbinski, and/or Pirates of the Caribbean will be suckered into sitting through.
The film is both loaded with train wrecks and is a train wreck. Depp's portrayal of Tonto as the brains behind the creation of the Lone Ranger is meant to right previous wrongs. Hollywood has hardly ever gotten it right when it comes to Native Americans on television and in films, and The Lone Ranger serves to feed into the clichés and even comes up with a few new ones with which to insult the Native American population.
As for the acting, Depp's doing a version of Captain Jack Sparrow here minus the charm and wit of that well-liked character. Armie Hammer is fine as John Reid/Lone Ranger, but the script does him absolutely no favors as it makes this version of the beloved character into a milquetoast non-hero. And actually the best characters of The Lone Ranger are two that are, unfortunately, not on the screen for long. William Fichtner packs more of a punch as Butch Cavendish in his shorter time on screen than either Depp as Tonto or Hammer as John Reid. Also displaying more life than should have been possible given the script is James Badge Dale as John's Texas Ranger brother, Dan Reid. A little more of either Butch or Dan would have lessened the need to focus on Tonto and the Lone Ranger, which might have been a good thing despite the fact they're supposed to be the center of attention.
For those still on the fence about paying for The Lone Ranger, please know that whatever goodwill you believe Depp and Verbinski have built up over the course of the Pirates movies (and Rango), it's not enough to make The Lone Ranger a forgivable experiment in torturing audiences. And torture this movie most certainly does. The best scenes of the film come during the final 20 minutes when finally someone somewhere must have figured out that The Lone Ranger is supposed to put audiences in a happy place and not have them grimacing and turning their heads from the screen.
The Lone Ranger was directed by Gore Verbinski and is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material.
Theatrical Release: July 3, 2013