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Saturday , 13 July 2013
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The Lone Ranger

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Do you want a totally realistic The Lone Ranger? Or do you want a magical realism The Lone Ranger? (Personally, I’m for the latter.) And do you even want a The Lone Ranger?

For the record the Lone Ranger character, John Reid was originally a radio show in the early 1930s. The same guy that came up with LR also created The Green Hornet and Brett Reid is the great nephew of John Reid. John’s brother Dan is Brett’s grandfather, and we meet Dan in The Lone Ranger. Something Brett can never do because Dan has his heart cut out of his body by arch oater baddie Butch Cavenish (William Fichtner, chewing scenery with a gnarly piece of his lip missing that incidentally reveals a gold tooth.) Butch chews on the heart a spell and then taunts his minions with his blood stained jaws.

There’s no chance of an Avengers type merger of the Green Hornet character and the Lone Ranger universe because quite simply Hornet was Columbia/Sony and TLR is Disney. But then again stranger things have happened. In The Lone Ranger several strange things happen. This is a movie after all that at times combines elements of Night of the Lepus, director Gore Verbinski’s own Rango, John Ford’s The Searchers, and The General (1926, Buster Keaton). And that doesn’t even begin to cover the territory trod on by a horse (Silver probably played by several horses) that occasionally dons a hat like Mr. Ed and climbs up a tree.

Oddly enough the film starts in 1933 before going back in time to 1869. We meet a young lad in a ad hoc museum at a carnival side show who comes across a very old man (Johnny Depp in another brilliant movie incarnation as Tonto), a man at least 100 years old who seemingly comes to life from a wax statue to a wrinkled carcass within the confines of a display case. The little boy gives the animated Indian his bag of popcorn. This is important because once the proper story beings Tonto pulls out the empty bag of popcorn from his pocket to trade, only 70 years erstwhile. You see The Lone Ranger isn’t just a Western but a parable for space and time. You know, Tonto? You know the Lone Ranger?

Eighty-five percent of the people I know don’t even know who Tonto or the Lone Ranger are and they weren’t even alive when a failed feature called The Legend of The Lone Ranger came out in 1981. But they’re about to find out about the masked man. There are plenty of foes in this film, and not just the bloodthirsty Butch but vengeful scorpions and carnivorous rabbits. In addition to Depp and Fichtner, The Lone Ranger features Armie Hammer as the titular character and Ruth Wilson, who made such a memorable appearance in the Brit television series Luther albeit with red hair, as Rebecca Reid. Also in the cast are Barry Pepper as a Custer kind of character, Helena Bonham Cater as a madam with a peg leg, Tom Wilkinson as a politician, and James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3) as Dan Reid.

A lot of the film exists independent of Tonto, which is to say lots of action and train sequences, lots of PG-13 style western violence. We see people getting shot. But we never see them getting shot with the shooter in the same frame. However the parts of the film with Tonto heighten levels of action to another level. The Ranger kind of looks down on Tonto yet begrudgingly accepts him. Likewise Tonto, in a backstory flashback has some childhood trauma that accounts for his, ah, far out way of perceiving reality. In some scenes Tonto is purely in Carlos Castaneda territory.

The Lone Ranger is a singular event and plays as such right down to its horse opera conclusion. There are times when The Lone Ranger is off the charts deranged. Like, why is the horse poop and the bad guy vomit Jägermeister green? Any film bold enough to suggest that animals and humans can communicate gets my vote.

- Michael Bergeron

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