spanish poster

The Lone Ranger (from the team that brought you Pirates of the Caribbean, didn’t ya know?!) arrived in theaters last week to scathing reviews, low industry expectations and minuscule audience anticipation. Of course, by that “team”, I’m referring to producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski, and star Johnny Depp. Here we have another project that took a long, troubled road to the big screen – a road that Disney probably now wishes it hadn’t traveled. The final box office tally for the film’s opening weekend was a disastrous $48.7 million for the 5-day holiday weekend. For comparison, Despicable Me 2 opened strong with $143 million over the same period. Wall Street analysts are now saying that Disney could end up losing $150-190 million total on the movie. That’s a big deal, but a company the size of Disney will absorb that without blinking. The only thing it will really cause is some bruised egos. Anyway, it’s still not as bad as the $200 million hit Disney took last year on the stinker known as John Carter. So…there’s that. Nor is Jerry Bruckheimer likely to feel much heat given how much money he’s made for the studio with the Pirates movies, especially given the [unfortunate] fact that a fifth one is on the way.

So why did Bruckheimer think that a cheesy western TV show from the 50’s would make an exciting $215-250 million (depending who you ask) summer blockbuster in 2013? The fuck if I know, brah. I thought this was a terrible idea from the get-go when it was announced several years ago, so its creative and financial failure doesn’t surprise me one bit. I’m not celebrating its failure, but I am happy that audiences knew better and rejected it. That’s a positive sign. I only wish they’d do so more often (like, say, on the 4th Pirates movie). I guess Bruckheimer felt that if he can turn a theme park ride into a multibillion-dollar franchise, he and his boys could do it with any property. Unfortunately for him, that is not the case. I’m not as big a fan of “TV crime show/epic adventure-fantasy film producer” Jerry Bruckheimer as I was “R-rated action movie producer” Jerry Bruckheimer from the 90’s, but I still respect the guy a great deal and consider myself a fan. Just don’t expect to see CSI: Topeka on my DVR, and I will not be fooled into paying to see Pirates of the Caribbean 5 in theaters. Never again!

Later in the review, we’ll get into why I’m disappointed in Mr. Verbinski and Mr. Depp. For now, to sum up my feelings on The Lone Ranger: it’s a bloated, unentertaining waste of talent and money, and a misfire for EVERYONE involved. Allow me to explain…


The white horse. He was well-trained and did kooky stuff, like somehow climbing up a tree and standing on a branch. This was my favorite character in the movie. What does that tell you?


Bojan Bazelli’s cinematography. Bazelli previously worked with Gore Verbinski on The Ring in 2002, and the cinematography was also one of that film’s strongest assets (difference being The Ring is actually a really good movie). This was some truly gorgeous wide angle photography showing us plenty of stunning landscapes and practical sets. There were also a lot of fantastic silhouette shots. I only wish the editing weren’t so rapid fire and modern so that we could actually take in and enjoy some of these shots for more than 2.5 goddamn seconds.

The costumes and art direction. The sets and costumes were splendid, exquisitely and painstakingly detailed, and no doubt very expensive. Hey, at least the majority of the bloated budget was spent on real things! +1!

The font on the opening and closing titles was really nice. I like old west-inspired fonts. Well chosen.

The movie is a box office dud, thus negating the possibility of a sequel. Every mediocre “franchise” that fails to get off the ground is another chance for an original film to get made and potentially break through. If this failure teaches Jerry Bruckheimer a valuable creative and financial lesson in the process, I’m for it. Then again, Pirates of the Caribbean 5 is still happening, so, yeah, like I said, he and Depp are gonna brush this one off pretty quick. Maybe it’ll discourage other studios from thinking they need to spend $200 million on a movie for large quantities of people to come out and see it. That would be a victory. Maybe it will set off a light in Gore Verbinski’s head that he should stop wasting his time and considerable talent on these steaming turds and go back to making regular-sized movies. At this point, he’s been there, done that with the summer behemoth 4 times now, and he’s only batting .500 as far as quality goes (the first two Pirates flicks). Here’s hoping. Seriously, though. Gore Verbinski is on that short list of filmmakers who, if given the right script, could do truly wonderful things. This guy should be competing for Oscars, not box office titles (and not Animated Oscars before some smartass brings up Rango). Let Michael Bay handle the soulless summer extravaganzas. You’re better than this, Gore Verbinski.

Verbinski Depp “LOL. He’s right, I am better than this.”

Depp: “I’m not.”

I didn’t fall asleep. See, I went to a midnight show, on a day where I didn’t get much sleep, and during the screening I nearly dozed off a half dozen times. My eyelids were begging to stay shut. But, you ask, if the movie was so bad, why are you glad you didn’t fall asleep? Well, the answer to that is twofold. One, I don’t pay money to go sleep in public when I can stay home and sleep for free. Two, if I slept through a significant portion of the movie, this review would not have been possible! OBVI!


The running time. If movie titles were honest, this would have been called The Long Ranger. There is no valid excuse for this movie to have been a second longer than 2 hours. This whole thing with Old Tonto telling his backstory to some stupid little kid at a circus in San Francisco could have been removed entirely and the story wouldn’t have suffered one bit. That’s 8-10 minutes shaved right there. I wanted to kill myself anytime they cut back to this. And make no mistake, this issue only exists because Johnny Depp was playing Tonto, which meant that character (who should have been a sidekick) had to be just as important and have just as much story and screen time as Armie Hammer‘s John Reid/Lone Ranger. So what happens is that instead of a movie called The Lone Ranger actually being primarily about The Lone Fucking Ranger, it’s also equally about Tonto. In effect, this movie tells two intolerable origin stories instead of one. This is what happens when you cast certain movie stars in secondary roles: they cease being secondary roles, to the detriment of the story.

Johnny Depp and pretty much the entire cast. It’s rare that I put the cast in this section of my reviews. Damned rare. It’s not that some of the performances aren’t adequate; the problem is there isn’t a single character worth liking or caring about. There isn’t a single memorable interplay between actors or a single memorable line of dialogue in the entire film. That’s really sad for me to report when there are this many talented actors on the screen. Depp basically turns Tonto into Indian Jack Sparrow, with most of the same eccentricities and none of the charm. While we’re on the subject, let’s consider Johnny Depp’s last few mainstream roles: The Lone Ranger (TV remake crap), Dark Shadows (absolute TV remake crap), Pirates 4 (uninspired, money whoring crap), Alice in Wonderland (a steaming pile of Tim Burton-y 3D/CGI-laden crap), and The Tourist (crappy enough that I can’t remember a single crappy thing that happens in it). The best work Depp has done in the past 7 years was his cameo in 21 Jump Street. I hold out some hope that he’ll return to greatness next year in Transcendence, a very interesting project that marks the directorial debut of Christopher Nolan‘s longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister. But again, this guy has no shame, and clearly no regard for his reputation, and as a result we’ll get Pirates 5 in 2015 because apparently Johnny Depp isn’t rich enough yet.

William Fichtner plays a podunk villain named Butch Cavendish, and at no point is he threatening or impressive, despite the fact that they even show the guy eating someone’s heart! (Yes, this is a PG-13 Disney movie where one man eats another man’s heart) I was more annoyed by this character than anything else. I’m a big Fitchner fan, so I don’t blame this on him, but I’m not sure I buy him as the primary villain in a movie this big. This is ironic since he’s also playing Shredder in next year’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. We’ll see how that turns out, but he probably wouldn’t have been my first choice for that, either. And by “probably wouldn’t have been my first choice”, I mean that he wouldn’t have been on my list of options, even if that list was 200 people deep.

william-fichtner-the-lone-ranger DERP!

The great Tom Wilkinson also appears as the evil corporate mastermind trying to turn the proposed intercontinental railroad into a major profit source for his company. Also known as “a complete fucking waste of his talent”. Perhaps removing this character and subplot would’ve eliminated the rest of the superfluous run time to get us under 2 hours.

Not to be outdone, Barry Pepper is here in some more epic facial hair (seriously, Barry Pepper loves epic facial hair on his characters), playing a corrupt Union officer something something it doesn’t fucking matter because his talent is also completely wasted.

For some reason Helena Bonham Carter agreed to show up on set for a few days just to play a one-legged brothel madam whose fake foot doubles as a pistol. No, really. And Barry Pepper gets a hard-on late in the film when she distracts him by hiking up her dress and letting him touch her fake leg. No, really.

-The great James Badge Dale is here in yet another bit part, as John Reid/The Ranger’s brother and the leader of a group of Texas Rangers. It’s their deaths that forces John into action (you know, to serve up some JUSTICE!). As always, JBD is good in his limited screen time, and I will once again call for him to get a leading role ASAP, or at the very least a strong enough supporting role so that he can be nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and then get some lead roles. This is the third movie this summer (after Iron Man 3 and World War Z) where this dude showed up in a bit part and steals every scene he’s in. He deserves better.

And I haven’t even mentioned Cavendish’s irritating gang member characters or the Ranger’s sister-in-law-turned-girlfriend (don’t ask), played by Ruth Wilson in one of the worst performances by an actress in recent memory.

This brings me to the movie’s co-star…

I’m still not convinced Armie Hammer can be a movie star. It concerns me that he hasn’t made a single good movie since breaking out in The Social Network 3 years ago. He was so brilliant in that movie that I have to believe he’s still got real potential, but all his big movies since (J. Edgar, Mirror, Mirror and Lone Ranger) have not allowed him to show anything comparable to his work in Social Network. It’s as if he said “yes” to every studio script sent his way after Social Network, when in truth he finally had the ability to be selective, which is every actor’s dream. Only Nicolas Cage says yes to everything! {Michael Irvin voice} COME ON, MAN! Now, I can’t fault him for J. Edgar. There was no way to know that movie would be so BLAH, and as a young actor, you don’t turn down the chance to work with Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio. Okay fine. Forgiven. But Mirror, Mirror? COME ON, MAN! I haven’t even seen that movie and I can tell it sucks. He probably should’ve had the foresight to turn The Lone Ranger down as well, especially when it became clear Johnny Depp’s involvement would make him the less interesting of two uninteresting lead roles.

And I do mean uninteresting. This John Reid guy couldn’t possibly be more generic. He starts the movie as a lawyer, and then once he’s left for dead and resurrected (or whatever you wanna call it) after his brother’s death, he’s suddenly a crack shot with a pistol and a master horseman. Amazing how that works. Then he does all the hero shit and gets involved in this incredibly awkward relationship with his dead brother’s wife. Like…who thought that was a good idea? The bitch even flirts with him while his brother was still alive early in the film.

Sadly, there’s a very real chance that The Lone Ranger could put the skids on Armie Hammer getting quality lead roles in the near future much the same way the tandem of Battleship and John Carter fucked up Taylor Kitsch‘s career prospects last year. Hammer has got to start making better decisions…immediately. This is why you don’t do just any big movie that gets offered to you. They have to also have the potential to be good and memorable so that people actually want to see your face on the big screen again. Pretty basic logic if you ask me. For example, do you think Joseph Gordon-Levitt hasn’t turned down a shitload of summer blockbusters? Imagine how many tentpole scripts like The Lone Ranger that Ryan Gosling has thrown in the trash. Choose wisely, promising young actors. Also, don’t do drugs or make a sex tape unless you want to end up as one of the following; a) Lindsay Lohan, b) a reality TV star, c) quickly forgotten or d) dead. I should be an agent.

THE ENTIRE SECOND ACT! Holy shit, what a slog. For a movie that cost so much, you’d figure there’d be more action, but no. After one brief action scene where Armie Hammer’s brother and his men get ambushed in a valley, pretty much nothing interesting happens for 60-75 minutes until the finale begins. And I do mean nothing. We get nothing but backstory that we don’t care about, non-humorous sight gags, and tedious antagonists detailing their evil schemes. It’s even not worth my time to nitpick the story or explain in detail why it’s so bad. If you don’t believe me at this point, by all means go out, waste your time and money, and find out for yourself.

More absurd summer movie stunts & the absurd finale. Or, as I like to call it, “train porn.” Some critics who have given the film a negative review go out of their way to praise the finale as a reason it might still be worth checking the movie out. In the words of The Grumpy Cat: NO. Not true. False. The only impressive thing about the final action scene is how much money they no doubt wasted on it. (I’d love to know exactly how many millions of dollars were spent on this sequence, but I haven’t been able to find that figure yet.) Yeah, it’s nice that almost all of it was done using real stunts and real trains, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the real stuff we’re looking at makes no fucking sense and isn’t actually that exciting. For instance, Tonto survives a fall during the chase (in which he gets up completely unscarred and uninjured, of course) that makes “James Bond falling off a 300-foot high bridge and landing in the water below on his neck” look downright plausible. He falls from one train down about 50 feet onto a pile of rocks (or coal or silver or whatever it is) on another train, then hops right up like he’d just landed in one of those pools of plastic colored balls you see at a playground. Wee! That was fun! I almost walked out. Then you’ve got people hopping from one train to another via makeshift ladder, the Ranger on his horse running across train car roofs and jumping from one roof into another train car (which is just as stupid as it looked in the trailer), and all manner of other dumbassness that I’ve already forgotten. It’s big and loud, it lasts a long time, and it ends in a spectacular CGI crash, but it is not thrilling and it is not worth the price of admission.

But hey! At least they didn’t destroy an entire city and/or kill thousands of innocent people along the way! +1 again!

train-a-paloozaThe inaugural TRAIN-A-PALOOZA was a rousing success.

Johnny Depp’s ON/OFF Indian accent. I’m not gonna do the clichéd thing and bitch about a white guy playing a Native American. Boo fuckin hoo, call the P.C. Police. I’ll let the uptight liberals handle that one. Maybe those same people can point out a Native American actor who’s a big enough box office draw to carry a $200 million western who should’ve played the part instead. (I’ll wait…) Anyway, Depp dips in and out of a pretty hokey Native American accent throughout the film. At times it’s almost as though he’s trying to stop himself from doing Jack Sparrow, and at other times there’s hardly any accent at all. There’s also a stupid one-liner at the end where he screams, “Never do that again!” with no accent whatsoever after they pay tribute to the old TV show by having the Ranger scream, “Hi-yo, Silver. Away!” Hilarious how an Indian in the 1860’s is able to make jokes using 21st century phrasing.

Johnny Depp’s makeup. Aside from the stupid Depp-ian eccentricity of wearing a dead crow as a headdress, I’m not sure whether or not the facial makeup is supposed to be face paint or a tattoo. I’m leaning towards tattoo, because the shit never washes off or even fades. It survives sweaty treks through the red hot desert and is barely even scuffed after Tonto & the Ranger PLUNGE INTO THE WATER! And how does that dead crow stay attached to his head? Has it been stuffed by a professional taxidermist and fitted with clips so it effectively works as a hair extension? Perhaps this is one instance where you tell Johnny Depp, “No!”, and then kick him in the nuts for even suggesting it.

Not even Hans Zimmer was spared. The score of the film, Zimmer’s first-ever attempt at a live-action western, was uninspired and unmemorable. Mind you, I don’t blame him for this at all. It’s incredibly rare to hear a great score in a terrible movie, even if that score is written by one of the greatest musicians in world history. The composer has to be roused by the images he’s seeing, and Zimmer clearly wasn’t in this instance. That said, I did like his version of Rossini‘s “William Tell Overture”, which played over the entire finale (listen below). That was a cool idea. The rest of the score? Meh. On top of that, Zimmer came onto the project late in the production. At first, Jack White of all people was signed to do the score, but he dropped out because of “scheduling conflicts” (aka he read the script or saw Johnny Depp in his stupid makeup). Fear not though, we still get two more Zimmer scores in 2013, on films that should both be good: Ron Howard‘s Rush [great TRAILER here], and Shame director Steve McQueen‘s Twelve Years a Slave (which is one of my most anticipated movies for the rest of the year).

-You can’t spend $215-250 million on a western. End of story. As much as I hate Hollywood’s new tendency to take the foreign market into account with every decision they make, even I will acknowledge that the western is a purely American genre, and you can’t spend $200 million+ on a movie that will only do 30% of its business overseas. As of this writing, Lone Ranger has taken in 71% of its box office from North America. A recent western hit, 2010’s True Grit, grossed a massive $171.2 million in the U.S. (proving westerns can still be immensely profitable), but only $79.8 million everywhere else, for a 68/32 split. The difference? True Grit cost less than $40 million to produce, so any international box office was merely a cherry on top extra cheese on the pizza. Last year’s Django Unchained (162.8 U.S., 261.2 overseas for a 38/62 split) is an anomaly, but it also isn’t a true western. In reality, I’d say you shouldn’t spend more than $125 million on any western, no matter what A-list star is in it. One of the benefits of a western is that unless you’re doing some genre hybrid (like the awful Wild Wild West for example), they don’t require expensive CGI or massive, expensive action sequences like we see here to tell a great story. What am I getting at? If you’re gonna make a western, just make a regular western. Otherwise, you risk financial disaster (Wild Wild West, Cowboys & Aliens, The Lone Ranger) if the movie is bad or foreign audiences simply don’t get it.

I don’t have a business degree or any real moviemaking experience to speak of, so why do I understand this while highly paid studio executives don’t?

Need I say more, folks? I’d wager it’s pretty clear I’m not advising you see The Lone Ranger in theaters. I’ve endured that pain for you. You’re welcome. I guess if you’re really curious about it, it’s a rental, but I honestly wouldn’t say you should watch it until it happens to be on HBO or some other TV network late at night. And you can’t sleep. And you can’t think of a single other thing to watch. And you don’t have any laundry to fold or gardening to do. No matter how you eventually view it, that’s still 149 minutes of your life gone, never to return. Just don’t watch this movie. Ever. That’s my recommendation.

BONUS BREAKING NEWS! Mr. Depp, the King of Sell-Outs, has just agreed to take part in a sequel to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. That movie, one of the worst he’s EVER MADE, was unfortunately also a gigantic hit ($1.02 billion worldwide thanks solely to 3D surcharges), and apparently this guy has never met a sequel he didn’t like. In the same transaction, it was announced that Depp also moved his production company from Warner Bros. to Disney, which I guess makes sense, since shitty Disney blockbusters and sequels are now his areas of expertise. Fuck this. I need to go watch Donnie Brasco again to rid the stench of 2013 Johnny Depp from my eyes, ears and nose, and to simultaneously remind myself that this guy used to be an actor.

I love one of the comments on the Deadline story: “Future generations of children will be greeted at the gates of the Magic Kingdom by Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and a man in a Johnny Depp costume.

Johnny Depp needs to be bitch-slapped…by Nicolas Cage wearing his bear costume from The Wicker Man. Twice.

Additional Reading:

-Check out Filmdrunk‘s post, “Everyone Hates The Lone Ranger”, which collects quotes from a slew of negative LR reviews.

Vulture did an excellent piece called “The Lone Ranger Represents Everything That’s Wrong With Hollywood Blockbusters”, and I’m hard-pressed to disagree with a single thing in the article.

-On Forbes, the always astute Scott Mendelson explains why The Lone Ranger shouldn’t have been budgeted like a sequel. Great stuff for Hollywood inside baseball nerds like me.

Eric D. Snider did a must read post called The Pitch Meeting for The Lone Ranger, in which he was allegedly given the NSA’s recordings in the room between 3 Disney execs and Jerry Bruckheimer. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve read all year.

IndieWire has a fascinating article revealing every minute detail of the film’s production issues, including how and why the movie was briefly shut down. You won’t believe some of the shit that didn’t make it into the movie. It’s a great read, and in it Gore Verbinski basically admits that almost everything I hate about the finished movie was his idea. Oof. You will definitely learn something reading How the West Was Almost Lost.

-Here’s a good devil’s advocate piece from The Playlist, listing what they believe is “the good, the bad and the weird” of The Lone Ranger. I don’t agree with much of their analysis, but if you think I’m being too mean then you can check that out. It’s also got some valid critiques and nitpicks that I forgot about, like the fact that Tom Wilkinson’s character doesn’t have a penis. Somehow I missed this detail. It was probably discussed during the second act of the film while I was busy devising ways to kill myself using only a movie theater armrest and my car keys.

The Lone Ranger – 149 excruciating minutes – PG-13

It’s worth mentioning again how much the hideous runtime adds to the misery of watching this flick. A bad movie is one thing, but a bad movie that’s also REALLY LONG should constitute a felony, carrying a mandatory minimum of 3 years in federal prison. In this case, I find Gore Verbinski, Jerry Bruckheimer, Johnny Depp, writers Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio and Justin Haythe guilty as charged. Armie Hammer, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter and William Fitchner would each serve one year as accessories.

IMDb Rating: 5/10

Why a 5, you ask, after how much I trashed the movie? Well, I had to give it an extra point for the excellent craftsmanship. It’s still pretty to look at, despite its myriad flaws. Basically, anything I rank below a 6 is a really bad movie. This one just happens to be a really well-made bad movie.

Biggie’s Consideration: Best Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup


I hope this review doesn’t make it seem like I’m piling on.


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    I believe you can spend a billion dollars on a western you can have Jonny Depp and Shredder fighting on a magical train in it and you can do whatever the hell you want. IF you have a great story.
    This was the movie’s problem, and I agree – all other problems including unmemorable music – will always stem from that.


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