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Movie Review: “The Lone Ranger”

Jul 022013
 
 By , July 2, 2013

the lone ranger

“The Lone Ranger” — a film review by Gary Chew

I’ve never heard a more robust and full-bodied performance of Gioachino Rossini’s overture to his opera “William Tell” than the one that’s now blaring in Gore Verbinski’s new film, “The Lone Ranger.”  At the screening I went to last week, it was enough to almost make me get up and shout, “Hi-Yo, Silver!” … twice … which makes this film worth no less than three hoots.

Then there’s the other line not in this truly visually spectacular movie, the phrase that the leading (but not in the title role) actor doesn’t get to shout.  Those words can be fondly remembered as a frequent exclamation from Tonto …  heard mostly in those swell, old radio dramas when the Lone Ranger’s sidekick would entreat his mount to “Get-um up, Scout!”

the lone ranger  As the 2013 version of Tonto though, Johnny Depp has lots more acerbic speeches sure to entertain the ten-gallon hat right off your head. And speaking of such head gear … wait till you see Armie Hammer in the title role wearing his Lone Ranger hat; especially in the early goings of the movie … well before Tonto tells the Lone Ranger to start wearing a mask.

Well, we all know that this is Johnny Depp’s movie, so it’s only fitting that Tonto has something to upstage the Lone Ranger’s sombrero by a long shot.  On Depp’s head you get to look at a big, dead bird.  Seems only fitting.

You may think I’m describing a Road Runner animated cartoon, and looking more deeply into the machinery of Verbinski’s big movie, there’s a lot that would categorize it with the “Eengk-Eengk” bird and his forever hapless coyote pursuer. The only thing is, all of what’s to see in “The Lone Ranger” is … or looks to be … live-action cinematography. No cartoonists around. (CGI in the bushes maybe?) These are real people acting in front of a camera while standing on authentic real estate that will bowl you over with its vistas, but with all the speed any action-packed, stunt-filled roadrunner/coyote saga travels.

Verbinski doesn’t carry his creation to the spoofiness of the great Mel Brooks though. Nope, no Count Basie Orchestra belting “April in Paris” just outside town in the desert heat for you in this photoplay.

the lone ranger

Helena Bonham Carter in Walt Disney Pictures’ “The Lone Ranger.”

This “Lone Ranger” is chapter one … how John Reid (aka the Lone Ranger) hooks up with a lone Comanche Indian warrior who appears pretty much warriored-out, and what sorts of awful things happen to the pair, and running into a beautiful white wild horse that Tonto calls “the Spirit Horse.” Reid quietly ponders to himself what he might name the mighty steed.

“The Lone Ranger” mixes and messes around with genres some. It’s spoofy. With some accuracy, it relates American history at the time of the expansion of the railroad. There are U.S. horse soldiers being led by a Custerish-looking officer. The picture is quite violent with a moderate to more than just moderate amount of bloodletting. There’s even a sanguinary scene with seriously implied cannibalism, while sexual references are scarcely breathed: no love scenes; a kiss or two and nuanced allusions to ladies of the evening, some of whom work the day shift at the Colby, Texas saloon (PG-13).

There are other Indians, really bad villains – a la Sam Peckinpah; Chinese workers on the railroad; sneaky, big-moneyed, top-hatted dudes; two young boys “on the road to find out”; and the Lone Ranger being a really cheesy, unhip but educated fellow who believes in civil rights and justice, even for the snaggly-toothed varmints who keep trying to kill him and his … sort of … trusty Indian companion, a speaker of excellent, though pithy English.

the lone rangerThe first third of “The Lone Ranger” veers to the “one joke” side to get the spoof off to a gallop. Then it alternates between violence of various kinds and serious matters relating to people of the Old West … all of it sprinkled with a recurring scripted line that asks of our white-hatted hero, “What’s with the mask?”

Oh, so 19th century.

Visually, the movie is one of the most, as they say, action-packed sagas I’ve seen in a movie theater. Stunts are astoundingly and generously provided throughout. Explosions, fistfights, gun and knife fights and incredible combat across and atop speeding boxcars that make up a newfangled train that’s chugging westward. (The picture was shot on location in New Mexico and Utah.)

Yes, the natural scenery is much like that which might been seen in an animated drama having a scraggly coyote that chases a pesky, smartass roadrunner. Eengk-eeng; then … a distant explosion.

I give this movie three Hoot Gibsons and one Roadrunner for providing me with one real hoot of an entertaining evening watching a picture show. I hope this novel Lone Ranger concept isn’t Disney’s last.

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Gary Chew was a classical music host, programmer and producer on Capital Public Radio’s KXPR 88.9FM, Sacramento for 18 years. He retired in January 2007. Read more about Gary's long and storied career here.
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