Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Helena Bonham Carter, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson
Running Time: 149 minutes
Release Date: August 9
It’s no big secret that the well of Hollywood leading men has run dry. Every year, studios green-light summer tentpole movies where $200,000,000 budgets are the jumping off point, and every year, the search for the right man to fit an established—and much loved—character role starts. Trouble is, the Clooneys, Pitts and RDJs of the world are getting a little old to be donning vulcanised rubber or going shirtless for 85% of a movie. It’s why guys like Ryan Reynolds and Taylor Kitsch get work—their youth and good looks get confused for charisma and nuance.
This Summer we’ve had two additions to the brain-dead and beautiful club: Übermensch Henry Cavill and Winkelvoss Armie Hammer—who both, coincidentally may end up facing off each other in The Man From U.N.C.L.E remake. Hammer takes the lead—though, realistically, it’s Depp’s movie—in The Lone Ranger, a remake of radio serials and a TV show no one under fifty will have any memory of, another bizarre flagship movie from Disney that hopes to mimic their past success of turning a fairground ride into a bonafide mint.
With his previous resumé reading as twin Ivy Leaguers, bi-curious Ivy League FBI agent and Ivy League charming prince, The Lone Ranger sees Hammer as a pompous lawyer thrust into donning a mask and teaming with an oddly loquacious Comanche (Depp) after his ranger brother is killed by a violent outlaw (a splendid, over the top and cleft palated William Fichtner).
Tonally, no blockbuster in recent memory is more of an egregious train-wreck than The Lone Ranger. Theme and genre change tracks at frequent breakneck speeds; dustbowl epic to anachronistic William Tell Overture scored romp in a beat, odd couple slapstick to uncomfortable Comanche genocide. A storyline involving werewolves was picked apart by vulturous rewrites yet its supernatural bones still confusingly remain—men’s hearts are eaten and silver bullets make no sense at all.
To Hammer’s credit, he goes at it as best as his handsome goofball schtick can take him, and he seems a reliable contender to wear Brendan Fraser’s big dumb crown. Yet, in scenes of any real emotional resonance, his wooden performance is one stage from rigor mortis and two from Paul Walker syndrome. If a recent interview with Depp is to be believed, The Lone Ranger has tanked because critics rightfully put the boot in on it. Funny then, that its biggest failures can be placed at his feet. Of his last 14 major roles, 10 have been with either Gore Verbinski or Tim Burton. There simply is nothing to a Depp performance any more, only the contents of the tickle trunk change—this time with added death metal corpse paint. In fact, the brief appearance of Burton’s wife, Helena Bonham-Carter, almost makes it impossible to distinguish between who was calling the shots.
The supporting cast for the most part is fun; particularly seeing Fichtner’s cannibalistic killer and Tom Wilkinson’s knavish railroad tycoon. Verbinski also wisely fills out the background characters with a murderers row of Deadwood and Justified cast-offs—we counted the score as 2-2. Regretfully, there’s little time in between the laborious and chemistry-free leads interactions, particularly Luther’s insidious Ruth Wilson in an underdeveloped role.
In fairness, its delayed schedule, stories of rewrites and gross over-budgeting ensured The Lone Ranger was always going to have a tough fight on its hands, but its limp swings at scope, mood and performance mean it deserves whatever kicking it gets.