It has been a while since The Lone Ranger has graced our screens, and if this latest incarnation is anything to go by, it may be a while before he pops up again. This is essentially Pirates of the Caribbean: In a Saddle, as director Gore Verbinski takes Captain Jack Sparrow and throws him into the middle of a western. The story combines an assortment of confusing flashbacks and a struggling Johnny Depp who does not seem to know what to do with the bland script and instead falls back on what he knows: funny walks and face pulling.
The story begins when a young boy, dressed as The Lone Ranger, attends a Wild West exhibit in 1933: the year The Lone Ranger stories were first introduced on the radio. Amongst the stuffed buffalo dioramas there is an exhibit labelled “The Noble Savage” where the wax figure of a Comanche Indian comes to life. With an incredible amount of make-up, even for Depp, the actor is introduced as an aged Tonto who proceeds to tell the story of The Lone Ranger.
Armie Hammer, who portrayed both Winklevoss twin brothers in David Fincher’s The Social Network (2010), takes on the lead role as John Reid, a law man on his way home to Texas when the train he is riding is suddenly attacked by outlaws. In a relationship that seems forced and contrived, Depp and Hammer are thrown together and struggle to form any kind of a bond that would be expected of the two iconic characters, Tonto and Reid. While Reid is supposed to be our central character, Tonto’s story sadly dominates and Hammer is Depp’s adjunct. It is clear that this is Depp’s film. With an unbelievable mixture of absurdity one minute and full-blown bloody horror the next, with no real explanation as to what is happening, it is hard to feel any real emotion towards the characters and the resulting film falls flat.
And yet the film does have some redeeming qualities. It picks up the pace in the final 15 minutes, just at the moment that well-established and infamous theme tune begins to kick in. Breathing energy and life into the story, it really does go to show how much a film can change due to the introduction of one piece of music. Unfortunately, it comes too little too late and the result is a 15-minute Lone Ranger episode within a Pirates of The Caribbean instalment, resulting in possibly one of the worst westerns to hit the big screen since Will Smith’s Wild Wild West (1999). Depp exits the film with the final line: “Don’t ever do that again”. It is a line that Verbinski and any budding Wild West director should pay close attention to.