Now that The
Lone Ranger is upon us, maybe the people who are so offended by the Summer
Guide 2013 cover will take their knickers, untwist them, and then re-twist them
over Johnny Depp’s supposed redface portrayal of Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s
long-suffering sidekick. Probably not, because if your sacred cow isn’t tipped,
who cares, right?
In case you
missed it, lots of people are angry over Depp’s decision to play Tonto in the
manner he plays Tonto. There’s further anger that he’s a white man playing
Tonto. And the dead bird on his head. And et cetera.
peeps: The redface is a red herring. Depp is pretty smart, and his decision to
play Tonto as an ironic version of his TV counterpart is rather inspired. And
actually, it’s pretty simple. 1) Draw the people in/get the dander up with
something familiar and taboo. 2) Turn familiar/taboo image on its head. 3)
Giggle all the way to the bank as familiar image/taboo becomes hero instead of
Depp’s presence is so great in The Lone Ranger, the Lone Ranger himself
(Armie Hammer) ends up being the sidekick. That’s fine, because this is Depp’s
show, whether it has Tonto’s name in lights or the masked man’s.
Depp and his
frequent collaborators, director Gore Verbinski and screenwriters Ted Elliott
and Terry Rossio (along with screenwriter Justin Haythe), have done what they
do best: They’ve taken a thin premise and turned it into big, brashy, overlong
entertainment. On the Verbinski/Depp enjoyment scale, The Lone Ranger
lands somewhere after the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie and
before its follow-ups. (Rango stands alone.)
1869, attorney John Reid (Hammer) returns to Texas from the east coast, joins
his brother as a ranger on a hunt for outlaws in Indian Territory, and gets
shot to shit. Tonto (Depp), with the help of a smart and wily white horse,
brings Reid back to life—or he never died; it’s not clear, intentionally—and
together they hunt down the people responsible for killing Reid’s
the half of it, of course. There’s also Tonto’s quest for the men who killed
his family. And then there’s Reid’s long-lost love, Rebecca (Ruth Wilson); the
railroad magnate (Tom Wilkinson); the cavalry officer (Barry Pepper); and the
super-bad guy, Butch Cavendish, played with appropriate hamminess by a
wonderful William Fichtner.
As with all
Verbinski movies post-The Ring, The Lone Ranger has way too much
happening. At 149 minutes, there are about 40 minutes of shenanigans and story
that could go and we’d miss nothing. For example, the entire movie has a
framing device with Depp playing a very old Tonto. It serves no purpose.
the standard Rossio-Elliott plot-heaviness. Some of the characters aren’t what
they seem. Some of them are, and some of them are worse than we can imagine.
The reveals—and audiences will figure out the plot twists before the characters
in the movie do—shouldn’t take this much time when it’s pretty clear who’s good
and who’s bad the moment they walk on screen.
are fine, especially Fichtner and Depp. For all those who think Depp is making
fun of the Comanche—the tribe that adopted him—the joke’s on them. This
entire movie is a joke. The only question is whether you’re in on
us to Armie Hammer, who’s in on the joke, but also the butt of it. He just
doesn’t have much to do. If his comic timing were better—if his character(s)
were better developed, as in The Social Network—he’d be as vital as
Tonto. But he isn’t. Tonto just needs kemosabe to get shot at, which is
a nice change of pace for the guy who used to be the sidekick.
THE LONE RANGER
Directed by Gore Verbinski
With Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer and William Fichtner
Regal Santa Fe Stadium 14
A super violent PG-13
Santa Fe Reporter