Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Live Near A Cinema: THE LONE RANGER

I recently moved back to my hometown, within walking distance of a cheap movie theater. While this is a great amenity for anyone who likes movies, it also presents a conundrum for the ever-entertainment-seeking First Worlder. It turns the cinema into a really big TV set. “Maaaan, there’s nothing on… ugh god, I don’t wanna get up though… ughhhh FINE, I’ll watch MONEY TALKS.” So in this situation, sometimes you’ll walk to the cinema, realize you’ve actually seen everything that’s playing that you wanted to see, and you end up seeing…

Eyes twitching, exuding a smell of sweat and horse urine, Gore Verbinski oversees the editing room of his over-budget, over-due western adventure THE LONE RANGER. The corpses of a Comanche tribe, wrongfully accused of raiding white settlements, are floating down a dark river, the film’s protagonists Tonto (Johnny Depp) and the Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) looking on mournfully.

Behind Verbinski, a cartoon HOLLYWOOD FATCAT of indeterminate religious persuasion says “OY vatts vit de dead indians now? I thought this was a summer blockbuster wit mistuh PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN? We need a laff there!”

“Y-yeah, a laff hehe we can always use a laff hehehehe”, Verbinski acknowledges, turning to face his skulking co-editors in a dark corner of the room. “CAN’T WE?? HUH????”

A scream. “Y-yes, Mr. Verbinski! Laffs! Laffs!”

And that’s how you end up with the tonal clusterfuck of a slaughtered comanche tribe floating down a river at midnight, followed by Tonto making a wacky remark about Silver wearing a hat and being stuck up a tree.

The most tragic part here is that the Comanche chief was played by a dude who actually exuded some charisma, so it was sad to see him go. And Silver’s often a funny ass horse, so that gag was actually pretty funny. It’s the most tone-deaf thing I’ve seen since Michael Bay followed up a homecoming of caskets of American servicemen with racist robots shuckin’ and jivin’ within seconds in TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. Hell, if I didn’t know any better I would totally believe this was Michael Bay’s THE LONE RANGER. The two main characters are total assholes to each other for pretty much the entirety of the movie’s runtime (unlike Bumblebee, Tonto can actually talk back); the movie is weirdly violent*; it’s way too long and looks really pretty… hell, if there was a lecherous tracking shot through Helena Bonham Carter’s character’s whorehouse the illusion would pretty much be complete. Speaking of Helena Bonham Carter, much has been made of William Fichtner’s character Butch Cavendish eating the Lone Ranger’s brother’s heart. Gruesome indeed, but ultralawls at the reveal that ivory-legged madame HBC is only disabled because of Cannibal Cavendish! He ate a leg? Aaaahahaha come on now

Two things kill this movie.

1.) It’s too fucking long. Cut that shit down to about 90-100 minutes, you’re fine. You really don’t need the San Francisco framing story, for one. Ancient Tonto telling the story to a little boy in 1933 doesn’t add a thing to the movie. Why do we need the aforementioned Comanche massacre? We’d had another Native American massacre in a flashback minutes ago, pretty much perpetrated by the same bad guys. We get it.

2.) Tonto and the Ranger don’t like each other. At all. Ever. Why? This isn’t PIRATES. It’s not thematically appropriate for your main guys to be all double crossing and distrustful. Yeah, one’s white and the other’s a Native American and it’s western times, but come on. A whole big deal is made about how John Reid is an enlightened SITTEH BOY from COLLEDGE. Why not have him be nice? I mean fuck, you can even start out with them at odds, but surely they must win each other’s respect throughout the movie? At one point, I thought the Lone Ranger, having just left Tonto to die, had come back for him because he just couldn’t. But NO! Tonto knows where the bad guys are and he needs him! Whaaat? Fuck you, buddy!

If only Verbinski hadn’t lost his fuckin’ MIND during production, I think a pretty cool movie could have come out of this. Hell, Depp is funny as Tonto. I laughed a bunch of times at the gags between him and the horse. Armie Hammer is a charming actor, almost making you forget what a fedora lord the Lone Ranger is as written**. William Fichtner is an intimidating bad guy. The action scenes are really good – Verbinski definitely ain’t a slouch there!

Shit, I’m gonna say it. I think the finale is a bit hamstrung by the inclusion of the Wilhelm Tell Overture. After decades of only hearing it in comedy chases and cartoons, the big heroic Lone ranger moment of the movie seems like just another bit of snarking at the character. LAWL look at this Donald Duck try-hard motherfucker! If they’d just have a straight up western hero theme blast during that moment, it would have been 100% effective, as the staging and build-up were top notch, just like the train chase that follows!

Oh, LONE RANGER. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, undercut by some absolutely wrong-headed choices. Where JOHN CARTER was a little too eager at letting you get to know all of Barsoom, LONE RANGER feels like it has to keep its snark levels up at 100% at all times to keep audiences interested. The problem with that is, it’s a buddy picture. Tonto can get a good joke in, and the Ranger can, but who the hell are you supposed to be rooting for? I guess Tonto cuz he has PTSD so you give him some leeway?

My screening was pretty full, incidentally. Not packed, but certainly around 3/4ths. Lot of young ladies, and a dozen or so were waiting for the next screening as we walked out. Good ole Depp in whiteface will always get ‘em! God, if he was Carter, I’d probably have more Barsoom movies lined up right now, wouldn’t I?

“M-Mr. Verbinski…” a trembling editor asks, “May I go to the bathroom?”

“AGAIN VIT DE BATHROOM DIS ONE!!”

“Mr. Verbinski please that’s offensive it’s just you and me in here”

With a scream, Gore Verbinski throws a half-finished bagel at his fleeing editor. In the darkness, Gore Verbinski cries.

*Two girls in their early teens walked up the aisle during the intermission. Ella asked me if they weren’t a little young to be in here. Based on the first half of the movie, she apparently thought this was an R-rated movie. I can’t blame her!

**When an old lady asks him to pray with her, he smugly proclaims that John Locke’s Two Treatises on Government are his Bible. A TRUE FACE OF ATHEISM

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