The Lone Ranger arrives in British cinemas trailing bad reviews and lousy American box-office figures in its wake. The film is already regarded as the come-uppance for director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer after their run of success with The Pirates Of The Caribbean movies.
In fact, this is a perfectly serviceable summer blockbuster. Like most other features that cost $200 million or more to make, it combines visual inventiveness and lavish set-pieces with moments of extreme clunkiness.
It is hard to see how it could be otherwise. When you’re spending this much, you need to reach a family audience to have any chance of recouping your outlay. Verbinski makes nods in the direction of Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone westerns. There are elements of the story here that are very dark indeed - massacres, cannibalism etc.
However, the filmmakers have the kids to think about - one reason why the film becomes ever more goofy and pantomime-like. There is something inherently kitsch in the idea of the masked Texas ranger on the white horse.
The screenplay’s clumsy framing device - an aged Tonto (Johnny Depp) telling the story in flashback to a kid in a wild west exhibition - doesn’t help. Depp himself is fine as the Comanche Indian with a bird on his head and some very Gothic make-up. Unfortunately, he has no real comic rapport with Arnie Hammer’s John Reid, the uptight lawyer who becomes the Lone Ranger to avenge the death of his brother.
The film is pepped up by its many chase sequences and by the vivid supporting performances. Helena Bonham Carter is good value as a brothel madam with a Rosa Klebb-like weapon in her foot while William Fichtner has just the right amount of rat-like malevolence as the villain Butch Cavenidish.
Verbinski stuffs too many stunts and leaden moments of slapstick into the mix but, even so, at least The Lone Ranger occasionally takes wing. That’s more than can be said for Wild Wild West, (1999) Hollywood’s last western on this scale, which was a true Turkey in every particular.