The Lone Ranger
Rating: You can piss and moan all you want, but who could resist a film where Helena Bonham Carter plays a one-legged prostitute with a hidden talent for firing lead from her artificial foot.
Remember that old hateful promotional TV add starring Kelly LeBrock where she immortalized the conceited phrase, “Don’t hate me because I am beautiful”? Well, let me paraphrase it by saying, “Don’t hate me because I liked The Lone Ranger.” From my view, what most of today’s critics are missing is the movie’s great strength, namely its historical significance.
Rip him if you will, but I thought Johnny Depp was a blast in his role as Tonto. Here he tells his life story to a young lad while participating in a traveling road show in 1933 where he appears as a human mannequin labeled the “Noble Savage”.
Beginning in 1869, he relives his own tragic childhood. Having befriended two white stragglers for a cheap pocket watch, they wipe out his small tribe after he leads them to a rich silver deposit. It is a heartbreaking story, and reflects the theme of the film where Native Americans are on the verge of becoming ghosts in their own land.
Against this backdrop the vagabond Tonto meets the delusional Armie Hammer, playing a character returning to the Old West after graduating from law school. Mr. Hammer is dedicated to the cause of justice, and he sees no need for a gun. He’s wrong.
As Hammer joins a posse of rangers led by his brother (James Badge Dale) in pursuit of the notorious Butch Canvedish (William Fitchner), they ride into a death trap. Luckily, Hammer survives with the reluctant help of Tonto, and begins to wear his classic mask to hid his identity.
Tom Wilkinson, great as always, plays Cole, one of the ruthless railroad tycoons building the transcontinental rail line. Besides befriending Cavendish, he secretly violates treaties with the surviving Comanches, inducing the military to wrongfully attack them when they rise up in righteous anger. He is as hateful here as he was loveable in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011).
A large battle is looming as Hammer gradually wrestles with the reality that justice is little more than a figment of his law school imagination. In a sense, it was like being a defense lawyer in Indianapolis under our prior prosecutor, only to learn that he allegedly authorized the release of a convicted killer after receiving what appears to be a large campaign contribution. Maybe I should have followed Hammer’s lead and worn a mask into court.
So despite the film’s shortcomings, I strongly maintain that it provides a window into our ugly national past. Millions of roaming buffalo were nearly made extinct simply to get them out of the way of our future rail lines. Indians were viciously eliminated because this was now our land and not theirs.
I should also note that the magnificent dueling train chase seen at the conclusion of the film enthralled even the film’s harshest critics. Done to the William Tell Overture, it produced the same undeniable thrill that I felt as a kid watching the old series on TV.
So think young, embrace history and go see The Lone Ranger.