I do recall some months ago that McSweeney’s published an open letter to Johnny Depp (or his portrayal of Tonto to be precise) lamenting the fact that a non-Native American actor was playing a Native in the forthcoming adaptation of the radio serial, The Lone Ranger. Surely Depp’s casting and resulting performance, despite claims that he is approximately 1/1000th Cherokee, would be little more than a glorified minstrel show? Well, is it the horrendously racist mess that venerable publication envisioned? It’s hard to tell really, as watching The Lone Ranger is akin to watching a snail slime its slow way along the surface of the moon. So laborious is it, the only thing which seems to permeate one’s consciousness is a complete and unshakable sense of boredom, perhaps with a vague awareness of snazzy headwear.
Earnest, hardworking and more or less without personality, John Reid (Armie Hammer), winds up attacked and left for dead by frontier psychopath Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), a wild bloke with a chip on his shoulder and a taste for human hearts. Thank the lord then for the arrival of Tonto (Johnny Depp) a local lad who rescues him in the nick of time allowing, or perhaps obliging, the duo to ride off into the sunset on a mission of vengeance that’s as convoluted as it is monotonous. Like two men possessed of nothing more than a desire to take 8 weeks paid holiday in Utah, they gallop across a scheme involving a railway, some Indian territory, a shed-load of silver and, for reasons known only to writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, Helena Bonham Carter with a ballistic leg.
Hammer, bless his little cotton socks, tries his hardest to pull of that “young Jimmy Stewart” schtick that was never going to fly. Aided by a script which moves at glacial speed, he comes across as a man in danger of being out-acted by his own horse. Not since The Patriot has Tom Wilkinson (sleepwalking through proceedings as a devious railroad tycoon) looked so disinterested with anything and everything around him. Bonham Carter appears so fleetingly as to make her performance almost unnoticeable, whilst Johnny Depp makes a decent fist of hiding in plain sight. Don’t worry about any possible racist connotations, his Tonto seems to barely be alive, which is downright bizarre from a film that so desperately wants to him to be the star of the show rather than Hammer’s eponymous spongecake in a hat.
Verbinski’s latest Wagnerian masterpiece, wheezing home at an appalling 149 minutes, takes forever to get going then never seems to end. The one sliver of silver lining is the appreciably raucous use of Rossini’s William Tell Overture.