Blu-ray Review: The Lone Ranger (2013)

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The Lone Ranger is a movie of many contradictions. On the one hand it’s so confusing and episodic that if we aren’t careful we’ll get completely lost in the sun-drenched sands of the western desert. Yet at the same time it’s so contrived in its storytelling structure that it’s bookended by a cheesy extended flashback narrative device featuring an older version of Johnny Depp’s Tonto spinning the exact same yarn that’s being unspooled by each sequential flicker of celluloid to a young boy who serves as a stand-in for the audience.

And as annoying as the gimmick is in spoon-feeding the saga to viewers through an on-screen surrogate, because the film was written multiple times by multiple people, there are times when we do find ourselves thankful for the cinematic hand-holding since what we’re ultimately presented with is a meandering, muddled mess of a picture desperately in search of an overall plot – if not a point.


Pulling us in multiple directions, The Lone Ranger is bogged down by endless possibilities – often trying and failing to chronicle the conflicts and subplots of more than a dozen of characters at once, all with different genre feels and tones until it becomes ever so obvious that a young boy is the last possible person that should be hearing the tale.

Featuring a colorful cast of characters who seem like they’ve wandered in from entirely different films Purple Rose of Cairo style and entered The Lone Ranger, we’re stunned by the choices made by the writers when faced with some of the decidedly un-Disneyfied players that populate the picture and detract from the original plot.

For within the same hour and in a purported “family film” no less, we encounter a cannibalistic killer who cuts the hearts out of his victims to satisfy his disgusting taste buds, a transvestite villain with a fetish for looking ultra-feminine and a one-legged prostitute who conceals a shotgun in her wooden leg.

Just who exactly the film is “really” supposed to play for in actuality as opposed to on the posters is anyone’s guess as is just what on Earth the film we’re presented has in common with the beloved hero of television and film past from which it’s supposed to have been adapted.

As it turns out, very little indeed as instead of the Jimmy Stewart type of heroic ranger intended by producer Jerry Bruckheimer, we’re given an awkward, not very bright, reluctant and at times cowardly hero who has to be goaded into action.

Given that Armie Hammer isn’t exactly a recognizable name cast-choice, the fact that he plays second fiddle to Johnny Depp isn’t all that surprising but what is surprising is Depp’s bizarre take on Tonto as a Native American with a screw loose and a tragic back-story to boot that has filled him with such guilt that it’s a wonder he can function at all.

An odd portrayal at best from his stilted “Ha, white man,” clich├ęd style line delivery and fanciful whims that never quite gel with the Buster Keaton persona and sense of ‘20s silent movie pratfall physicality he puts forth in some of the film’s more successful scenes.

An overall ugly film that is definitely unsuitable for casual family viewing, The Lone Ranger’s only saving grace comes in the form of its second – far more successful – bookend device featuring complex action sequences executed by horse and train.


While the first one is impressive if a bit short, ultimately it’s just a preview of the brilliance to come in the second and final action sequence of the film – a twenty-minute, all-out, adrenaline pumping blend of bravura action and screwball silent comedy synced to the Lone Ranger theme we know so well.

The expertly choreographed feat is a feast for the ears and eyes, not to mention far more dazzling than anything else not only in Ranger or in other vastly superior action movies during the course of 2013.

It's so good that it makes you mad by how much the rest of the bloated 140 minute movie missed the mark by not matching the remaining 120 minutes to the same pace, tone, spirit, style and humor on display in that sequence.

And against all odds and reason, the formerly must-miss movie becomes a must-see just for that segment alone. An infusion of the goofy fun of 1998’s Zorro remake with the artistry of Buster Keaton’s The General, which most certainly served as a chief inspiration – an argument can be made that that sequence should’ve been trimmed from the picture and released as an Oscar worthy live action short in its own right.

Unfortunately however you can’t just review the film for one part but have to take it as the overall sum of those parts and ultimately Disney’s Lone Ranger is a disaster of epic proportions, especially once you factor in the obscene amount of money gambled on the budget that it justifiably lost at the box office.

Nonetheless, those who have taken a chance on the film in its flawless Blu-ray transfer can take advantage of the handy scene-selection feature to skip the mess and move right to the mini-movie that enthusiasts of the original Ranger were waiting for all along. Hi ho, Silver, and away to the end indeed.     

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