Aside from being way too long, convoluted and kitschy, "The Lone Ranger" has moments of sheer brilliance, which keep it afloat. Pitching a Western action comedy to an audience these days is a tough sell, but director Gore Verbinski manages to make it worth the investment.
It doesn't hurt that Johnny Depp, portraying Tonto, has top billing over the title character. The king of quirky (think: "Edward Scissorhands") was born to play this version of the Lone Ranger's sidekick. Face covered with crackled-white paint and black stripes, he sports a dead bird as headgear. His constant feeding of the bird gives us some insight into Tonto's mental state.
It seems Tonto is on a guilt trip. As a child he betrayed his tribe for a pocket watch resulting in their massacre. Ever since, he's been roaming solo through the desert until he hooks up with John Reid (Armie Hammer). Reid's righteous ideals are shattered when his brother and fellow Rangers are killed by the notorious Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) who's so evil he cannibalizes his victims. Reid agrees to partner with Tonto (who, by the way, suggests the mask) as they fight greed and corruption.
A decrepit Tonto tells the story in a series of flashbacks to a child visiting a sideshow in which he's an attraction. He goes on to relate how a devious railroad magnate (the wonderful Tom Wilkinson), a corrupt cavalry captain (Barry Pepper) and Cavendish plotted to violate the treaties established with the Comanche Nation. There's also a love interest involving the Lone Ranger's brother's widow (Ruth Wilson).
Seriousness aside, the film concentrates on the evolving relationship between Tonto and the Lone Ranger. Hammer plays straight man to Depp's caustic dry wit and, most of the time, it's hilarious. When the Lone Ranger asks Tonto what his nickname "Kemosabe" means, he replies, "wrong brother," indicating he'd rather have teamed up with his dead brother.
"The Lone Ranger" benefits immensely from cinematographer Bojan Bazelli's breathtaking camerawork. Filmed in Colorado, California, New Mexico and Utah, the spectacular vistas of our great West are captured in all their glory. Hans Zimmer's sweeping score perfectly accompanies the astounding visuals.
Sadly, the first two hours of "The Lone Ranger" drag on somewhat endlessly. But, suddenly, "The William Tell Overture" blares as the Lone Ranger rides his snow-white steed, Silver, over rooftops and moving trains. Your heart pounds and you realize it's all been worth the ride. "Hi-yo Silver! Away!"