“The Lone Ranger,” starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp as the title character and Tonto, contains a couple of firsts. It’s the first ever Lone Ranger screen story to be told from the perspective of sidekick Tonto and may well be the first Disney movie ever to feature cannibalism.
Set against a backdrop of corruption during the building of the railway’s westward expansion through Native American territory, this is the origin story of how attorney John Reid (Hammer), a law and order man who doesn’t believe in vengeance, met Tonto (Depp) and became the Wild West’s masked crusader.
The unlikely pair are brought together by their mutual enmity toward Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), a cannibalistic outlaw who Reid wants to bring to justice and Tonto wants dead. That pursuit uncovers massive corruption during the building of the railway’s westward expansion through Native American territory beginning with a conspiracy to start a war between the US Calvary and the Comanche Nation.
“The Lone Ranger” is state of the art nouveau Western, complete with circling vultures, unspoiled landscapes, gruff, unshaven men and even a beer drinking horse. Surprisingly nimble footed for a two-and-a-half hour epic, it is unexpectedly funny but more violent than your typical summer tent pole flick.
It’s hard to know exactly who “The Lone Ranger” is for. The Buster Keaton style slapstick humor seems aimed at kids but the multiple massacres, cannibalism and genocide are anything but kid friendly. It’s an enjoyable romp but there is definitely a darker edge than you might expect.
There is also more story than you might expect. As a team Verbinski, Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s track record at handling a narrative doesn’t inspire confidence particularly if you surrendered hours of your life to watching the bloated “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequels. Those movies were more rotten than the teeth in Captain Jack’s crooked smile, but reined in they deliver a mostly linear story that is inventive but most of all entertaining.
At the helm of it all are Hammer and Depp. The handsome Hammer has some fun with the stoic character and Depp, who says he is “one sixteenth Native American,” and speaks with the old school Jay Silverheels halting speech pattern, hands in a suitably wild performance as the spiritual but unpredictable character.
In their capable hands “The Lone Ranger” rides again.