Thursday, 8 August 2013

Film review: Lone Ranger (12A)

Lone Ranger
(12A) 149mins

Johnny Depp dons Tonto warpaint and Armie Hammer adopts the mask in this right rollicking, roller coaster of a re-imagined Western.

For a reason that can only be explained by the entropy of the human soul and the narrowing of youthful eyes to cynical slits, many critics have given this the rollicking roller-coaster of a film lukewarm reviews.

Some have tut-tutted at the sacrilege of deploying John Ford country as backdrop to a mere comedy adventure. Others wonder if this is not another failed attempt to re-imagine the Western for a modern crowd. Others suggest there is nothing here but vacuous, bloated fun.

Pah, I say. And pah again.

Ignore them as you would ignore the swimming pool entreaties - no bombing, no diving, no running.

Ignore the killjoys. Bomb, dive, run. Immerse yourself in this theme park Western bookended by two of the most audacious runaway train sequences ever stuck on screen.

Those who promulgate such dour put-downs are not the boy who wanders into a fair in San Francisco in 1933 and finds a diorama and an Indian entitled The Noble Savage.

For this is a story told by a wrinkly, enigmatic Tonto to a lad in pristine Lone Ranger garb, brimful of questions about his hero's history.

This is an origins story and there is iconography bingo to play as Dan Reid (Armie Hammer) checks off a list including a mask, a white horse, a white hat, a silver bullet, a cause and, of course, a sidekick.

If this is Pirates of the Caribbean Go West, then Johnny Depp imagines the louche limbed Tonto as the younger, wiser brother of Jack Sparrow - quieter, more wounded and ruminative but, like Jack, with an agenda that often runs at cross purposes to the main narrative.

Unlike Jack's hedonistic quests, Tonto is out for revenge and there are dark streaks that slice through the film like a vengeful axe.

The story is carried by the lawyer John Reid who sees his brother killed by gnarled Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and his faith in the law destroyed by the forces of capitalism embodied by Tom Wilkinson's ruthless railway pioneer Cole.

To find silver (no, not the horse) the invidious white man must stir trouble with the Comanche and have it visited back upon him.

Meanwhile, the double act (should that be triple with that darned cunning quadruped) comes together with quips, flashbacks, scrapes and the occasional lesson in heartless colonialism.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski are old hands at choreographing this sprawl into a visual feast.

They even manage to rival Monument Valley with bucks-on-screen set dressing, including the baroque whorehouse Red's where Helena Bonham Carter keeps an explosive secret under her skirts.

The film shies away from blind adoration and neatly undercuts the schmaltz but when the William Tell Overture kicks in, there are numerous shivers down many creaky spines.

Hi ho Silver away indeed.