DIR: Gore Verbinski • WRI: Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio PRO: Jerry Bruckheimer , Gore Verbinski DOP: Bojan Bazelli • ED: James Haygood, Craig Wood • DES: Jess Gonchor • CAST: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson
There is a Native American aphorism, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” I watched Johnny Depp for two hours (and twenty minutes!) in his makeup, and that was enough to judge him fairly.
It’s no secret that Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski’s Lone Ranger update has been a miserable disappointment for the producer-director team. In the States and elsewhere it’s already released, it has consistently under-performed at the box office and caused no small amount of negative press for the once-critic’s darling Depp. He might have been due a backlash since the early 2000s, but leaving all Pirates and Willy Wonkas to the side, The Lone Ranger proves just how misguided Johnny’s star ascent has been.
Depp is Tonto is Captain Jack Crow, sidekick (and de facto star) to Armie Hammer’s blandly handsome Ranger. The story of their genesis (not that there’s going to be a sequel) is told from Tonto’s point of view via a distracting flashback device that sees the wizened Indian recounting their exploits to an aspiring young cowboy. From the beginning, Depp lets his grotesque makeup and offensively prosthetic nose do the lion’s share of acting for him – minus a few mincing steps and flamboyant pratfalls.
It’s a shame the loudness of Depp’s persona couldn’t have supported a more substantial foil in the Ranger himself. Sadly, Hammer functions only to look tall, square-jawed and noble, lusting chastely after his dead brother’s wife and goofing off just enough to satisfy the film’s overall boringly postmodern air of irony and self-reflexivity.
What’s good in the bad? William Fichtner is fantastically ugly, anyway, as the villainous Butch Cavendish. Fichtner, one of the best character actors in Hollywood, is effectively menacing within the PG-13 constraints of the film (they actually preserve the residue of threat around Cavendish; his most gruesome acts – cannibalism, for instance – cannot be directly represented, leaving them just out of sight and therefore up to the viewer’s imagination). Helena Bonham Carter is also good, if under-used, as a one-legged madam who shoots bullets from an ivory prosthesis.
The Lone Ranger is over-long and overblown, but of course it is most damningly racist (see above, re: Depp’s nose and makeup – with or without his tenuous claims to Native American ancestry, it’s still offensive) and profoundly cynical about it all. A whole army of noble Comanches can’t atone for a single of his “Kemosabes”. And I doubt they’ll be bringing him back anytime soon.
Ciara Máirín Barrett
Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
The Lone Ranger is released on 9th August 2013