I know this is somewhat of a backhanded compliment, but The Lone Ranger, as directed by Gore Verbinski, and enacted by Arme Hammer in the title role, and Johnny Depp as Tonto, is far from horrific—it’sactually pretty entertaining at times. It is also overly complicated while remaining more than a tad predictable, so that the protracted length heightens one’s awareness that the movie is wildly overblown. What’s good about the movie virtually begins and ends with its raison d’etre: Johnny Depp’s Tonto. His interpretation is not so much a reconstruction (or deconstruction) as one might think. Depp’s Tonto is wary, intelligent, resourceful, and possesses an innate dignity, as did Jay Silverheels. He also gets the most withering one-liners and several opportunities to provide some humorously quizzical reactions. Depp and Arme Hammer are also able to work up a little chemistry in the scenes where they aren’t being swamped by the machinations of the convoluted plot. The movie also benefits from a nicely done prologue with a 1930’s carnival setting where Tonto is now enacting the “noble savage”. This places the action of the movie from a very old Tonto’s perspective, and further enhances the nobility and humanity of Tonto.
So what’s wrong with the movie? To quote the immortal Lou Costello, I can give you the answer in two words: Puh…lenty! For one thing, the Lone Ranger’s character has been given a literally unbelievable makeover so that it he is now the spitting image of James Stewart’s tenderfoot Ranse Stoddard from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance-just as committed to justice, not guns-only ten times as dense. The character’s thickness serves to promote disdain, rather than admiration, especially around the fifteenth time that he allows the villain to live (and incidentally go on to kill a gazillion more people-slight exaggeration). Tom Wilkinson’s railroad magnate practically has villain written on his forehead, partly because of his portrayal and partly because-he’s Tom Wilkinson (gradually becoming this generation’s Edward Arnold). The movie also tries to have it too many ways, with its elements of western expansion and Indian annihilation clashing with the jokey aspects of the travels of Tonto and the Lone Ranger. Finally, those excessive action sequences don’t do the movie any favors, serving to exhaust viewers rather than rouse them. There are glimpses of scenic grandeur and some amusing moments, but the ‘anything goes’ approach made this viewer long for the simplicity of earlier, more effortlessly entertaining westerns.
Coming to you from the man who brought you Independence Day, Roland Emmerich’s White House Down is also rather overblown and overlong. It’s also generally exciting and involving throughout, mainly due to the easy rapport between Jamie Foxx’s imperiled President and Channing Tatum’s off-duty police officer, and a scenery-chewing performance from James Woods as the President’s Head of Security. I won’t reveal much about the plot except to say that, like the earlier Olympus Has Fallen, the White House falls prey to well-armed, well-prepared terrorists who manage to easily overcome White House security (after these two movies, one would think there’s some remedial training in the works) and easily repel the efforts of the armed forces to reclaim the President’s House. Once again, there’s more than money involved in the terrorists’ motivations, and you can guess what that is-and once again, there’s the lone cop with something to prove. The action sequences are well-staged, the key relationships are believable (for this kind of genre film) and there is an emotionally satisfying climax and resolution to the whole affair. It’s all good summer fun.