7.08.2013

When I Was A Young Lad...

THE LONE RANGER (2013)
Image from www.salon.com.

As a young, 12-year-old boy growing up in the 1950s, I have fond memories of sitting down in front of the ol' black-and-white and watching episodes of The Lone Ranger while ma cooked up a post-dinner apple pie. No? Not buying it? Okay, so maybe I'm an 80s child with a healthy dose of penis envy, but the point is, I wanted to be that little boy with the Lone Ranger mask who ran around terrorizing the neighborhood cat with a slingshot. So when they announced that they were doing a Lone Ranger movie, I (and all the baby-boomers twice my age) had a purely sentimental reaction. Because, for about an hour and thirty minutes, I could be that little troublemaker who goes strutting into the Wild West tent at the carnival, craving adventure. 

 Pretty sure she picks movies for the wardrobe.
Of course, therein also lies the problem of the movie. It's a sentimental film, but also a very selectively sentimental film. The Lone Ranger was big in its day, sure. But it doesn't have a lot of modern day relevance. Like Dark Shadows, it's a passion project that's going to miss a lot of viewers simply because...well. It's old. You can remake fairytales until the cows come home because we're still reading those bedtimes stories about princesses and frogs and slightly rape-y sleep-kisses. However, there aren't a lot of kids who are still watching black-and-white reruns of The Lone Ranger

Which is my way of saying: this movie was doomed from the start. It just doesn't have the audience it used to. However, the plot itself was pretty simple. John Reid--a by-the-book lawyer--suffers a dramatic event and learns to drop his old, law-abiding ways to follow the road of justice. Eventually. This is an origins story more than anything, so there isn't a heck of a lot of the Lone Ranger being the Lone Ranger. Rather, there's a lot of John Reid being wishy-washy, arguing with Tonto, and struggling to stand by his moral compass in an immoral world. 

For a simple plot, the writers managed to twist it up in a couple of convoluted knots that just didn't need to be there. Most of the rickety storytelling came from the fact that the story had an unreliable narrator--old and weathered Tonto--who often lost the thread and had to retrace his steps. There's a good way to do this (a la Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), and a bad way to do this. This fell somewhere in the middle--it didn't lose me at any point, but sometimes, it just felt a little gimmicky and unnecessary. Plus, there were too many characters and small, subplot arcs thrown around. What was the deal with the American army and did it really need to play such an integral role? Nope. Don't think so.

Cowboys doing cowboy shit.

The plot aside, the actors were great. I believed 100% that Armie Hammer was just as much of a goody-two-shoes as he presented himself to be. He pulled off the character well, even though his teeth could've been a little less damn shiny (this is the wild west. C'mon). Johnny Depp was Johnny Depp--thoroughly silly and thoroughly enjoyable. Of course, many fucks were given over the fact that some white dude was playing Tonto, but Johnny Depp is at least a shamelessly ridiculous replacement, where I might add, Khan was supposed to be taken completely, unflinchingly seriously. So sit on that for a couple white-washing seconds. 

Two of my favorite actors--Tom Wilkinson and William Fichtner--played our main villains, which was just...lovely. They're both so good at being bad, I have no complaints. Plus, William Fichtner just has such an interesting face, that man can do anything with it. Speaking of chameleons, a moment for James Badge Dale, who proved that no matter what the role, he can pull it off flawlessly. Granted, his roles are often a little extravagant and there's never anything really subtle about his characters (big metal flame guy in Iron Man 3 and prick boss in Shame), but he's always exactly the character the movie needs and manages to fit in seamlessly with the mood of the film. All the awards for James Badge Dale. I guess I should mention Helena Bonham Carter, but she was just...Helena Bonham Carter. Lovely and ridiculous and clearly written into someone's contract. 

And Silver did a great job being a horse.

Which brings me to my final point...you don't need to know a heck of a lot about The Lone Ranger to enjoy this one. I think the real draw of this film is the world it exists in. It's more than a homage to the old Lone Ranger series--rather, it's a homage to spaghetti westerns period. It's got all the necessary ingredients--train robberies, whore houses, indians, mines, the railroad, the hunt for gold and silver. It's almost like a mash-up of the "best of Westerns." And, at the end of the day, that was what stuck with me. To its credit, the movie spared no expense in world-building. They took us through even the little details of the world--that heavy-hoofed patter as the horses raced to catch up with a steam-billowing train. The grimy, snaggletooth villains that'll kill their grandmothers for just a little extra coin. The clattering awe of the first trains, chugging down freshly laid tracks--

Well. It was the feeling of being a slack-jawed, twelve-year old boy clutching a slingshot. 

If you want a movie that brings up purely nostalgic western feelings, you'll enjoy this one. If you want a shamelessly fun summer flick, you'll enjoy this one. If you want to spend two hours in air conditioning, you'll enjoy this one. With that, I'm off to buy a cowboy hat and attempt to lasso my girlfriend's yorkie for a couple of hours. Hi-yo, Silver, away--!

4 comments:

  1. I really dig this review, M. After all the shit this movie has taken, it's good to see someone legitimately enjoy it.

    I caught Armie Hammer on Conan last night, and I'm rooting for this guy. Seems like a solid dude. And I had no idea about Wilkinson and Fichtner. That's a dynamic duo.

    That said, the biggest thing holding me back from actually seeing this? Run time. Damn this mofo is an epic!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, homie! Yeah, I think if you go in knowing it's going to be ridiculous campy fun...it's hard not to enjoy. Especially if you tag along with some spaghetti western nostalgia in your back pocket.

      Hammer really did deliver! And I always love Wilkinson and Fichtner, so they could do no wrong in my book.

      I'm with you about the run time. It did seem to drag a little by the end...but not as much as it probably should have. If it helps, that's two hours you could be at home watching Long Island Medium instead. What've you got to lose?

      Delete
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