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Johnny Depp
Armie Hammer
Tom Wilkinson
William Fichtner
Ruth Wilson
Helena Bonham Carter
Barry Pepper.
Gore Verbinski.
Ted Elliott
Terry Rossio.
Running Time
149 minutes

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The Lone Ranger
Hi-Yo Fidelity

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Aged Comanche Tonto (Depp) relates his days with John Reid (Hammer) and how the sole survivor of a massacre of Texas Rangers by the notorious outlaw Butch Cavendish (Fichtner) and his gang became the masked man bringing justice in the Old West. Corrupt railroad men, stampeding buffalo and a comedy horse all play their parts.

The Lone Ranger
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Hi-yo and away, indeed! The Lone Ranger rides again, and it is with no small relief and a wide grin that we can embrace the reboot of one of the longest-running, most iconic franchises in entertainment history. The signs were not auspicious, frankly. Admittedly the photos of Johnny Depp in buckskin with a dead bird on his head — Depp’s make-up and costume inspired by the painting I Am Crow by Kirby Sattler, who is not American Indian and paints imaginary characters — looked tasty. But the years in development, multiple credited screenwriters, different mooted directors, vague chat of ‘production problems’, a budget that ballooned to the $250 million neighbourhood and a slew of comparisons to Wild Wild West from the US reviews all suggested a disappointing fiasco could be on the cards. Not a bit. Blockbuster über-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski and writers Justin Haythe (from Revolutionary Road to this, who would have thought?), Pirates alumni Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, with the considerable efforts of a stonking cast, stunt co-ordinators, animal wranglers et al, immortal music and the scenery enshrined as John Ford Country resoundingly deliver the rootin’, tootin’ goods and the potential for an ongoing saga to rival Pirates Of The Caribbean.

The scene is set when a small boy in a Lone Ranger costume visits a Wild West exhibit in San Francisco in 1933. That is just the first in an encyclopedia’s worth of homages and references, since 1933 was the year The Lone Ranger was created for American radio (running to nearly 3,000 episodes in over 20 years of broadcasts), spawning movie serials, novels, comics, cartoons, toys, a ’90s video game, a ’00s TV movie and, of course, the first TV Western, starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, which is still showing on retro channels in the US after 64 years.

Said child (Mason Elston Cook) is transfixed by a display featuring a wax figure of a weird and wizened American Indian, so old he looks like Keith Richards. Then he moves. It’s not a dummy, it’s an ancient, addlepated Tonto, who mistakes the boy for his kemosabe and takes off flashbacking at a gallop down Memory Lane. The device of an oldster telling a tale to a boy was genius in William Goldman’s The Princess Bride and it works as nicely here, the youngster’s intermittent objections, indignation and incredulity over aspects of Tonto’s story taking us back and forth in time periods and effectively linking episodic adventure into one big story in five acts. It also preempts protests in the stalls from Lone Ranger buffs concerned by deviations from the long-established lore. If one can sit tight and exercise patience through troubling episodes and seeming transgressions — like the ever-morally upright hero holding up a bank, noooo! — all is gradually revealed and explained in highly satisfactory, reasoned and sufficiently reverent fashion.

This is an origin story. John Reid (Armie Hammer) arrives in Colby, Texas, in 1869 with a law degree, a prosecutorial job and a belief in law, order and justice that remains unshakable to the point of nincompoopish, Dudley Do-Right innocence. His elder brother, Dan (James Badge Dale), is a Texas Ranger, and married to John’s one-time sweetheart, Rebecca (Ruth Wilson). When Dan and his posse ride out in pursuit of the infamous Butch Cavendish, John the city-slicker dude is embarrassed into coming along. Ambush and slaughter ensue. John finds himself regaining consciousness in a grave dug by eccentric (putting it mildly) Tonto (Depp), recovers and dons a mask made from his brother’s vest, the startlingly savvy-in-flashes Tonto advising him that he needs to stay dead in their circumstances. A partnership is born, with odd-couple bickering the tone and parallel agendas the plot, with the rest of The Lone Ranger’s essential accoutrements — flashing white wild stallion, silver bullets, catchphrase et cetera — collected in due course.

Meanwhile, vicious baddies (William Fichtner, almost unrecognisably grubby as badass Butch, accompanied by assorted sleazoids including the bizarrely underused likes of James Frain) are raiding ranches and so forth, stirring up war between the Comanches, settlers and railroad interests (embodied by Tom Wilkinson’s devious big shot presiding in the fancy, elegantly appointed railroad car). We should point out that history and geography have gone out of the window from the off, and other niggles include various musical anachronisms — like a band playing a Sousa march that wasn’t composed for another 20 years. The Transcontinental Railroad that linked East and West, and the thousands of Chinese workers who laboured to build it, went nowhere near Texas. And locations in cinematically sacrosanct Monument Valley, Utah and California look nothing like Texan terrain. But they do make for mighty pretty pictures; a shot of The Lone Ranger and Tonto astride their mounts at cliff’s edge on John Ford’s Point in Monument Valley is one of the breathtaking images that make you take this film seriously and to heart amid crazed action, breakneck escapades and belly laughs. It isn’t just golden oldies that rate referencing. Helena Bonham Carter’s Red, roistering madam of the improbably Fellini-esque local pleasure palace/den of iniquity, has a finely crafted artificial limb of ivory scrimshaw that conceals a secret straight out of Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse.

Depp and Hammer pitch their performances as Tonto (first time ever the ‘sidekick’ has top billing) and Lone Ranger beautifully, funny but not too ridiculous, engaging, even moving. Tonto’s broken English and wackier rants are his mask; there is intelligence, wisdom, cunning and long-term planning in his seeming madness. Even his inauthentic, highly individual accessories are eventually explained as possessions and emblems with great significance in some major backstory reveals. (Small moments, pointed shots and apparent throwaway lines are neatly planted throughout that make sense of several mysteries and oddities by the end.) The impossibly handsome Hammer also has the chops to pull off a naive, do-goody pratfaller, a classic hero and a sorrowing survivor with dramatically emotional gear changes. Although this is dangerously pitched as an action-adventure-comedy-Western, the abundant humour happily stays the right side of feelgood, knowing jests never straying into panto, parody or piss-take.

Silver is a comedy horse, with a taste for hooch recalling Lee Marvin’s drunken nag in Cat Ballou and an aptitude for heights that defies explanation, so there is none, but when thundering hooves and riding like the wind are called for he’s the business. You can even see where the money went when, at last, what we’ve waited for and what must happen happens. The Lone Ranger appears, heroically posed on Silver, on a rooftop, and Rossini’s William Tell Overture takes over from Hans Zimmer’s superb score for a gobsmacking set-piece of runaway trains on twin tracks, Tonto aboard one, baddies on t’other, hostages and loot changing hands, heroine dangling over precipices, while the masked man and his steed fly over rooftops, railway carriages and chasms, the careening locomotives’ paths perilously aligning, bending, diverging and colliding in a sensational climactic spectacle. Thank goodness this is not in 3D or it would make you puke. Verbinski and co have literally timed and orchestrated the culminating thrill-ride action to the music, and it’s magical.

Talk about a pleasant surprise! Real storytelling, well thought-out and beautifully, at times insanely, executed, with excitement, laughs and fun to make you feel seven years old again.

Reviewed by Angie Errigo

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Lone Ranger
Empire Star Rating

Great fun

I have no idea why the US hated this so much, I really enjoyed it. Whether a Depp or a Disney backlash I dunno, but well filmed, well scripted and well delivered. Yes it was a western POTC but it worked just as well as that did. Definitely a four star film worth catching. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bretty at 17:34, 12 August 2013 | Report This Post

RE: A mixed bag of bird seed

Really not that bad at all, actually quite entertaining all told. It's a good 45 minutes too long of course and the tone lurches awkwardly between dark and sinister (I'm genuinely gob-smacked they managed to squeeze Fichter's heart eating theatrics into a PG-13) to slap-stick at the drop of a hat, but other than that I really didn't mind it, it's a half decent romp, certainly more deserving of your money than several other blockbusters of recent times I could name. 3/5 ... More

Posted by paulyboy at 14:27, 12 August 2013 | Report This Post

RE: A mixed bag of bird seed

Though fairly enjoyable in parts it could've been so much better if it'd had at least half an hour shaved off & as for Hammer being the next Dark Knight not on this showing talk about being a drip the horse had more carisma. Also on another note exactly how many bullets are there in Barry Pepper's six guns as when he was on the train trying to kill Tonto he must've fired at least 20-30 times without reloading? A mostly enjoyable 7/10 could've been so much more. ... More

Posted by Wild about Wilder at 13:54, 12 August 2013 | Report This Post

RE: A mixed bag of bird seed

At a sideshow in a San Francisco fair in 1933, young Will, who idolises a legend known as the Lone Ranger, encounters Tonto, an elderly Comanche Native American, who proceeds to recount his experiences with the Ranger, who actually existed. In Colby, Texas on March 18, 1869, he was a lawyer named John Reid. His train is derailed by outlaws rescuing a prisoner called Butch Cavendish who had been captured by John’s Texas Ranger brother Dan. He joins Dan and six others in going after the outlaws, ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 13:02, 12 August 2013 | Report This Post

A mixed bag of bird seed

The Lone Ranger is a long film. If it had spent more time in the saddle of an action/summer popcorn flick instead of the saddle of serious/historic tragedy film then perhaps we would have got to the climax quicker. It lingers over the massacre of natives a little too long for my liking, taking away from the mystery and heroism of the masked avenger. While delivering many great western cliches as well as pinching a few typical train heist manoeuvres this film is quite good. The action in turn ser... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Limeylove at 23:12, 11 August 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Tone

Was almost ready to dismiss this film, because really the story or genre of the film doesn't interest me too much, and also I am not a fan of the director, add to that the trailer's do make it look really bad. However having heard the wonderful Ruth Wilson talk about it on 5Live yesterday I am more inclined to give it a try. Her interview was great, she sold the film very well and was level headed and fair in her response to the criticism. I think maybe Depp should take tips from her in how ... More

Posted by ElephantBoy at 12:56, 10 August 2013 | Report This Post


Saw this last night. Depp is likeable as always, but the tone is too dark at times and the pacing is off. I'm actually astounded how grim this is for a 12A, and the film struggles to rouse laughter when moments that would otherwise be funny follow such horrific scenes. Some movies succeed in striking this balance, but I don't think TLR did. The plot is predictable, the dialogue is workaday, the action although clever in places doesn't quite pop or thrill. I liked it, it's stayed with me a bit... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by sunflies at 10:51, 10 August 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Review Bung

Please accept this as an apologies for any offence taken to my previous post. It was meant as joke and is obvious it has not been taken as so as my tone wasn't conveyed in the post. It was purely a comment on how this review contrasts many others, I have no suspicions of Angie being given a back hander - that would be silly and I do not doubt her integrity. I think Angie herself was surprised as many of us that the film turned out to be pretty good. Although I still realise that this is a highl... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by piefroth at 09:23, 10 August 2013 | Report This Post

All mask, no personality.

There's nothing inherently bad about the film; it's just not interesting enough. There are flashes of greatness sprinkled here and there, but they're outnumbered by flashes of 'yes, get on with it'. The Lone Ranger does exactly what you expect it to, exactly when you expect it to, and for far too long. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 21:59, 09 August 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Review Bung

L: piefroth Angie Errigo, last spotted boarding a private jet for an luxury all-inclusive holiday in Disney Land, Florida. iefroth - you may wish to look up the term 'libel' in whatever passes for a dictionary near you. Disagree with a review as you choose but this type of thing is never acceptable on this board. Any further similar comments will simply be removed. ... More

Posted by elab49 at 14:07, 09 August 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Review Bung

L: piefroth Angie Errigo, last spotted boarding a private jet for an luxury all-inclusive holiday in Disney Land, Florida. otta love people who pull this specious shit out of thin-air. ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 13:56, 09 August 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Independent reviews seem to be rare for this movie

L: Temporal I've registered on this site just to express my respect to the author of this independent review, strangely rare for this movie. After the development hell this film got into critics' hell, while many viewers enjoy it. I'm bored by sequels with their predictable narrative schemes, and it keeps me away from cinemas. "The Lone Ranger" is different from typical Hollywood production due to its irony, non-linear story structure, unpredictable narrative turns and attention ... More

Posted by elab49 at 13:53, 09 August 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Independent reviews seem to be rare for this movie

L: Temporal Either you will have a good memorable time watching this movie, or you will follow the mass of floppish critics. o anyone who genuinely dislikes this film is just falling in with the critics? What utter, utter shite. ... More

Posted by Filmfan 2 at 13:37, 09 August 2013 | Report This Post

RE: The Lone Ranger

Maybe Angie Errigo gave the film a 4* review because she actually enjoyed the film? Go and check out the Only God Forgives thread for a great example of how one person's opinion seems largely at odds with everyone else's. (On a personal level, I'd throw Stoker in there too. I watched it on the basis of two incredibly positive 5* Empire reviews, presumably from two different writers - yet the horrendous film I actually watched barely rated a single star IMO.) I suspect that the US reviewers brou... More

Posted by BelfastBoy at 08:37, 09 August 2013 | Report This Post

RE: The Lone Ranger

During multiple decades of the last century, cinema was littered with westerns which were the cheapest films to make, hence why there were so many. Nowadays if Hollywood were to make a big-budget western i.e. Cowboys & Aliens, it would be incredibly expensive and eventually flop. As with Disney’s big-budget production of The Lone Ranger hit cinemas at the States, it is already considered a box office bomb, and yet the film itself is not quite the stinker as predicted. When the non-violent ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 18:15, 08 August 2013 | Report This Post

Review Bung

Angie Errigo, last spotted boarding a private jet for an luxury all-inclusive holiday in Disney Land, Florida. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by piefroth at 11:04, 07 August 2013 | Report This Post

Thanks Angie

After seeing all the dismal reviews I was ready to skip this one, but Angie's review convinced me to go see it. I was expecting a slapstick, silly adventure, but it was actually quite serious with some witty humour thrown in. Yes, it does get a bit long, but the plot is well thought out and I enjoyed Hammer and Depp's interaction. Thanks for sticking to your guns and not succumbing to the pressure to go the same way as every other critic. Sometimes I think they're so afraid to stick their neck o... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Enzino at 10:21, 30 July 2013 | Report This Post

Independent reviews seem to be rare for this movie

I've registered on this site just to express my respect to the author of this independent review, strangely rare for this movie. After the development hell this film got into critics' hell, while many viewers enjoy it. I'm bored by sequels with their predictable narrative schemes, and it keeps me away from cinemas. "The Lone Ranger" is different from typical Hollywood production due to its irony, non-linear story structure, unpredictable narrative turns and attention to curious det... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Temporal at 13:00, 22 July 2013 | Report This Post

RE: The Lone Ranger

L: CaractacusJack It's funny how sheep all nod together as one and accuse the one person bucking the trend is simultaneously the one who isn't thinking for themselves. Giving e Rangertars and fatheroesn't mean they're being compared to one another. Fairness isn't judging different things the same, it's judging different things differently. By your standards I guess of the Lost Arkas the worst Mafia movie ever. Anyway, I saw e Rangerher night and have no idea what movie the o... More

Posted by dseys at 18:44, 13 July 2013 | Report This Post

The Lone Ranger

Firstly well done Angie for being honest and not being swayed by mainstream opinion, as many will be. Secondly this film was admittedly not a 4 star film but it is not quite as joyless as stated. The film is overlong, has a jarring narrative framing, too many characters and an uncertain tone. Yet the chemistry between Depp and Hammer is fair, there may be too many pirate references but Depp still does his brand of kooky pleasantly enough. The music is awesome and that final set-piece is better t... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JJB888 at 22:36, 10 July 2013 | Report This Post

Wild Wild Worse

I don't know where to start. The annoying "Western" accents, the bad acting or just the plane bad story. While Disney could have had a brilliant franchise on there hand they managed to muck it up. First big mistake was casting Depp who does his best Jack Sparrow with a bird on his head act the entire film and then secondly they cast Armie Hammer next to him who just doesn't bring any kind of charisma or likeability to the Ranger himself. They aren't helped by a weak script and effects ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by J_BUltimatum at 20:54, 08 July 2013 | Report This Post

RE: 4 stars? Really,, I'm surprised

Very weak opening in the states for a $215 million budget film. Another Mega flop for Disney after John Carter. ... More

Posted by klause at 11:48, 08 July 2013 | Report This Post


I haven't seen this film, but is it possible that it could have been re-cut for the UK after negative reviews in the US, and/or it's just better suited to a British palate? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by sunflies at 01:13, 06 July 2013 | Report This Post

This is to Pirates of the Caribbean...

...what Wild Wild West was to Men in Black, what The Hobbit was to Fellowship of the Ring and what Star Wars Episode 1 was to A New Hope. It is kind of entertaining, there are a few beautiful shots and Verbinski knows how to put a spectacular action scene together. But all is totally lost in a confused screenplay with endless subplots and a sinister tone that doesn't suit an adventure film... as for Depp's acting.... WTF?? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jasper_29 at 14:36, 05 July 2013 | Report This Post

I'll go with Empire on this

Great review Annie. Ignore the blowhards who 1 star films because they are 'summer blockbusters' or the lead man is 50 years old. Ridiculous. This film looks ace fun. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Lord Midas at 10:44, 05 July 2013 | Report This Post

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