The Lone Ranger (2013) Movie Review


Armie Hammer in The Lone Ranger (2013) Movie Image

“The Lone Ranger” is a big, fat waste of time. Disney’s latest attempt to cash in on nostalgic moviegoers isn’t even memorably bad. If it failed in a spectacular ball of fire and disaster, at least that would be something. Instead, what you get is 149 minutes—and you feel each and every one of those minutes scrape by—of tedious boredom. The story is convoluted, and by turns attempts to be a tent pole action film, a buddy comedy, a family melodrama, a revisionist western, and a tale of heroism, and it falls flat in every instance. I saw this less than a week ago, and I’m honestly having trouble recalling any specific details without referring to my notes. Except one, I was bored as hell.

If “The Lone Ranger” isn’t the biggest flop of the year, I will be very, very surprised. There’s a serious “John Carter” vibe in play here. First off, it cost an absurd amount of money. Director Gore Verbinski tries to make his film sweeping and epic, but he never captures the majesty of the scenery in the way classic westerns do. This isn’t a John Ford movie, and it’s painfully obvious what scenes were filmed on location, and which were filmed in front of a green screen. It’s hard to imagine the studio putting an untested young actor front and center in a movie this size, but they did, and star Armie Hammer looks lost most of the time, like he’s not sure what the hell he’s doing. In reality Johnny Depp, Tonto to Hammer’s Lone Ranger, gets just as much screen time as the headliner, but to no avail.

Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger (2013) Movie Image

Depp and Verbinski aim to capture some of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” magic, though they haven’t made a decent one of those since the first outing. Here they even recycle the bit where a character swings around from a tall post and kicks bad guys. Only this time you’re on a train, and the result doesn’t have even a fraction of the swashbuckling excitement. The stunt is just something you’ve seen before. “The Lone Ranger” never comes close to duplicating the adventure or humor of the first “Pirates” movie, and comes across as a stale, wanna-be knock off.

For a movie based on a television show about a gunslinging hero, Hammer’s Lone Ranger is neither heroic, nor adept at handling a firearm. In fact, before he becomes his mask-wearing alter ego, lawyer John Reid espouses a hatred of firearms, saying there’s no need for them where he’s going, the future. Of course, by the end of the film, he has transitioned from a passive man of words to a badass man of action. Okay, not so much on the badass front, but circumstance forces him through a similar transition to James Stewart’s character in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” But again, this ain’t John Ford, not even John Ford light.

The Lone Ranger (2013) Movie Image

John is from a frontier town, though he went back east to law school. The typical western contempt and distrust of book learning is on full display when he returns home to instill his big city law and order on the violent landscape of the Wild Wild West. He’s earnest and opinionated, and has zero idea about the way the real world works. His brother Dan (James Badge Dale), a tough as nails Texas Ranger, embodies the other end of the spectrum. When notorious outlaw, and part time cannibal, Butch Cavendish (an uglied up William Fichtner) ambushes them, Dan is killed, and John is left for dead. With the aid of the ever so helpful, and ever so off his rocker, noble savage Tonto, John becomes what is supposed to pass for the hero of this film. In reality, he’s so inept that it is a miracle he’s not killed a dozen times over. Chalk that up to being a “spirit walker,” who can’t be killed in battle.

The rest of the two-and-a-half hour run time is taken up with a logjam of unnecessary complications. For instance, there’s an awkward love story between John and Rebecca (Ruth Wilson), his dead brother’s wife, and the mother of his dead brother’s son. That seems healthy. Because this is a western, there’s Cole (Tom Wilkinson), a creepy, obviously evil railroad baron with a devious scheme. And then there’s Tonto. Though it only ties into the main narrative at the last moment, his story is actually the most interesting one, though that isn’t saying much. An outcast from a dying tribe, he’s nearing the end of a lifelong quest for redemption and revenge. You’d give way more of a crap about him and his story if he didn’t spend half of the movie feeding the dead crow he wears on his head.

Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger (2013) Movie Image

As if all of this wasn’t jumbled enough, the whole shebang is wrapped in one of the clumsiest, most intrusive frame stories you’ll come across. Decades after the fact, presumably after the Lone Ranger and Tonto became famous vigilante crime fighters, a small child dressed as the masked man encounters a kindly old Native American fellow. This relic from a bygone era is none other than Tonto himself (Depp in a rubber suit that makes it look like his body is melting). If this device was used to bookend the story, you could ignore it, but “The Lone Ranger” bounces back to it with alarming frequency, completely derailing what little momentum the film had managed to build. You get the point, they’re trying to illustrate the cost of progress, which is an underdeveloped theme throughout the entire movie, but these scenes primarily serve as a platform for Depp to be wacky.

As is the case with most problematic movies, you could forgive many of the faults in “The Lone Ranger” if only it were exciting. But it’s not. Outside of a big contrived, Rube Goldberg style action piece early on, the only major action scene is the climax. Granted, this is reminiscent of the mine cart scene in “Temple of Doom,” scaled up to full sized trains, but by the time you get there, it’s too little too late. You don’t have a hero to hang your hat on. The good guy is bumbling and incompetent, the story is dull and laden with redundancies, and the character you like the most, Dan, dies in the first act.

The Lone Ranger (2013) Movie Image

You could make the argument that this is a film aimed at younger viewers, much like the boy in the Lone Ranger costume. Only the sheer number of bullets fired, extras crushed to death by locomotives, and spunky prostitutes, is enough to disqualify this as a kid’s film. And oh yeah, there’s the cannibalism. At least then it would have to be exciting, or the audience would riot, and the simple minded conclusions could be more defensible.

Gore Verbinksi (director)/Justin Haythe (writer)/Ted Elliot (writer)/Terry Rossio (writer)
CAST: Armie Hammer…John Reid/The Lone Ranger
Johnny Depp…Tonto
William Fitchner…Butch Cavendish
Ruth Wilson…Rebecca Reic
Tom Wilkinson…Cole
James Badge Dale…Dan Reid

Buy The Lone Ranger on DVD

Author: Brent McKnight

Brent McKnight lives in Seattle with his dogs. He likes beards, movies where things explode, and overcast skies. His three favorite movies are "Rubin and Ed", "A Bittersweet Life", and "Out for Justice". He wishes his knees didn't hurt. On Twitter @BrentMMcKnight
  • Dedpool

    Sad to hear. Had no expectations but still sad to here.

    • Brent McKnight

      All I wanted was some engaging action, but nope, they couldn’t even give me that.
      Actually, that’s not entirely true, the big climactic moment is a pretty good action scene, but by then you’ve already sat through two plus hours of tedium, and no longer give a shit.

  • PK68

    Looks terrible. No desire to see this.

  • Online72

    Very sad. It’s 1981 all over again. What a waste of $$ and time. If they really just wanted to make a movie to get kids and fans of the material excited about going then they should have not tried to do something so off the wall.

  • ErickKwon

    Damn, shame that James Badge Dale can’t seem to make to the end credits w/out going toes up. Been a fan since “24” and “The Pacific”. And this actually sounds worse than the ’81 version; at least that has the unintended bonus of Christopher Lloyd as Cavendish as well as James Robards’ dead-ringer portrayal of U.S. Grant. Between this and “Green Hornet”, looks like the Reid family line isn’t having any luck in the reboot department

    • Brent McKnight

      He’s in real danger of becoming Sean Bean, he dies in everything lately.

      • ErickKwon

        Here’s the question on my mind: better or worse than “The Wild Wild West”?

        • Brent McKnight

          That’s tough. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Wild Wild West, which bastardized a show I loved (I was more a fan of the original than of the Lone Ranger), but Lone Ranger is such a fresh wound. At least they tried to make Will Smith a Hero, Hammer is just an idiot who relies on luck rather than skill, courage, or anything real.

          Maybe I’ll have to revisit Wild Wild West and see.

          • ErickKwon

            Saw parts of it on cable few weeks ago and it’s still bad. Both of the “WWW” reunion movies were tons better

          • Brent McKnight

            This just makes me want to rewatch Wild Wild West. The show not the movie. It’s been years.

          • Nix

            The only way to watch Wild Wild West is AFTER you listen to Kevin Smith’s story about how he was originally hired to write a Superman script. Somehow that story ended up merging with the Wild Wild West story, and it really makes you understand how most blockbuster movies in Hollywood are made, and “story quality” has almost nothing to do with it. It’s really long, though, about 20 minutes, but it’s super worth it.

          • ErickKwon

            Thanagarian snare beast

          • Karen Merkel

            Don’t call Armie an idiot. An actor is handed a script and has to do as he is told. That’s his job. The writers and director are at fault if a film turns out bad. I agree that it was too silly, but still a lot of fun.

          • Brent McKnight

            You’re absolutely correct, I can’t speak to Hammer’s intelligence. What I meant is that his character, the Lone Ranger, is an idiot who relies on luck rather than skill.

            In the show, the masked hero uses his crack aim to shoot the guns out of evil doer’s hands. The only time that happens in this update it is completely by accident, an accident that also caves in the villains skulls, thus negating anything gained by disarming his enemies. Terrible script that can’t make up its mind what it wants to be.

          • Karen Merkel

            You’re forgiven.

          • ErickKwon

            So it sounds like he’s in Prince Charming mode from “Mirror, Mirror”

  • Aegon the Conqueror

    Im quickly losing all my respect for Johnny Depp, people think he’s such a great acotr but he’s essentially been playing the same character over and over again for the last ten years. Tonto, jack sparrow, mad hatter, that vampire from dark shadows, willy wonka…their all basically exactly the same character and he plays them exactly the same way! Am I going nuts or are other people noticing this too?

    • Brent McKnight

      Except for his cameo in 21 Jump Street, all he’s been lately is a funny hat/hairdo and a stupid voice. That’s not acting, that’s just phoning it in and collecting a paycheck.

  • Kim Kirk

    I took my kids to see this movie this evening. I thought the place would be empty because of what I’ve heard, but the show was nearly sold out. This was a very entertaining movie and very funny, seemed everyone else thought so too. I think most critics had too high of expectations. Mine were low but I enjoyed the show the entire time. Johnny Depp was very funny in this. It’s definitely worth seeing.