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Byron Shire
May 13, 2021

An uninspiring shambles

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Film review: The Lone Ranger

John Campbell

Armie Hammer, the ‘twins’ in The Social Network, was a shoo-in for this part. Tall, classically handsome and blessed with a sonorous baritone and a pleasing gift for self-deprecation, he has become the new Brendon Fraser – which is not really meant to be a backhanded compliment.

Johnny Depp as Tonto is more problematic. He doesn’t stoop to do a lazy re-hash of Jack Sparrow on horseback, but neither does he push himself much beyond skylarking. Letting the Indian be the protagonist is terribly gallant – in a cloyingly PC sort of way – but such good intentions are surely undone by the recourse to ‘blackface’. One thing is certain, no Native American actor has anywhere near the box-office appeal of Depp, so it is game, set and match to the financial backers.

Physically, the two are a natural pairing and they aim for that magic Butch and Sundance roguishness, but with only moderate success. The repartee – there is precious little of it in a very long 130 minutes – falls short of the mark, with considerably more effort being put into the action sequences, which is only to be expected given Jerry Bruckheimer’s involvement as producer. The story of how John Reid became the Lone Ranger is told in flashback when a withered old Tonto comes to life as the ‘noble savage’ at a Wild West fair to address a star-struck kid. Every treasured reference of the genre is then called upon, from John Ford’s epic Monument Valley landscapes to the posse chasing the hideous bad guy to the unscrupulous railway tycoon to the frenetic runaway train. The latter is executed with panache and precision, but I’d been worn down by the time the over-extended, steel-wheels finale, replete with exploding canyon bridge, finally arrived.

As is so often the case in blockbusters, the excitement imperative had annihilated all else, leading to a closing half-hour of cluttered, barely intelligible narrative components. Rossini steals the show when his rambunctious William Tell Overture wraps up what is an uninspiring shambles.

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