Review: 'The Lone Ranger' is a runaway train
This publicity image released by Disney shows Johnny Depp as Tonto in a scene from "The Lone Ranger." (AP Photo/Disney Enterprises, Inc.)
There's a limit, it turns out, to how much Johnny Depp and a bucket of makeup can accomplish.
In "The Lone Ranger," Gore Verbinski's flamboyant re-imagination of the hokey long-running radio show and '50s cowboy TV series, Depp eagerly attempts to recreate the extravagant magic of his similarly farcical Jack Sparrow of Verbinski's "Pirates of the Caribbean."
With cracked white and black streaks down his face and a dead crow atop his head, Depp's Tonto (whose look makeup artist Joel Harlow took from the Kirby Sattler painting "I Am Crow") appears more witch doctor than warrior. One would think that a so-costumed Depp careening through the Old West with Buster Keaton aplomb would make "The Lone Ranger," at worst, entertaining.
This undated publicity photo released by Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc. shows Johnny Depp, left, as Tonto, and Armie Hammer, as The Lone Ranger, in a scene from the film, "The Lone Ranger." (AP Photo/Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc., Peter Mountain, File)
But Verbinski's film, stretching hard to both reinvent an out-of-date brand and breathe new life in the Western with a desperate onslaught of bloated set pieces, is a poor locomotive for Depp's eccentric theatrics. For 2 ½ hours, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced "Lone Ranger" inflates, subverts and distorts the conventions of the Western until, in an interminable climax, the big-budget spectacle finally, exhaustingly collapses in a scrap heap of train wreckage.
"The Long Ranger" is, alas, a runaway train. A filmmaker of great excess, Verbinski's ricocheting whimsy here runs off the rails. Flashback-heavy plot mechanics, occasionally grim violence (bullets land in bodies with the loudest of thwacks, a heart gets eaten) and surrealistic comedy add up to a confused tone that seems uncertain exactly how to position Depp's Tonto in the movie, to say nothing of Armie Hammer's wayward Lone Ranger.