The Lone Ranger — There’s a limit, it turns out, to how much Johnny Depp and a bucket of makeup can accomplish. In Gore Verbinski’s flamboyant re-imagination of the hokey long-running radio show and 1950s cowboy TV series, Depp eagerly attempts to recreate the extravagant magic of his similarly farcical Jack Sparrow of Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean.
One would think that a so-costumed Depp careening through the Old West with Buster Keaton aplomb would make The Lone Ranger, at worst, entertaining.
But Verbinski’s film, stretching hard to both reinvent an out-of-date brand and breathe new life in the Western with a desperate onslaught of bloated set pieces, is a poor locomotive for Depp’s eccentric theatrics.
For 2½ hours, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Lone Ranger inflates, subverts and distorts the conventions of the Western until, in an interminable climax set to the William Tell Overture, the big-budget spectacle finally, exhaustingly collapses in a scrap heap of train wreckage.
A talented filmmaker of great excess, Verbinski’s ricocheting whimsy here runs off the rails. Flashback-heavy plot mechanics, occasionally grim violence (bullets land in bodies with the loudest of thwacks, a heart gets eaten) and surrealistic comedy add up to a confused tone that seems uncertain exactly how to position Depp’s Tonto in the movie, to say nothing of Armie Hammer’s wayward Lone Ranger.
When Verbinski was last directing and Depp was a cartoon lizard, they crafted a far better Western in Rango.