The Lone Ranger (2013)

2015 #177
Gore Verbinski | 149 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 12 / PG-13

Hated by Americans and loved (well, ok, “liked”) by everyone else (well, ok, “by lots, but by no means all, of people who reside outside America”), Disney’s attempt to pull a Pirates of the Caribbean on Western adventure IP The Lone Ranger is by no means as successful as the first instalment in their piratical franchise, but is at least the equal of its sequels — and, in some cases, their better.

The convoluted plot sees us arrive with John Reid (Armie Hammer) in the frontier town where he grew up, where his brother Dan (James Badge Dale) is now sheriff. Construction of the railroad is running by the town, spearheaded by Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson), who letches after Dan’s wife (Ruth Wilson); but work is plagued by a band of outlaws led by Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). Receiving information on his whereabouts, Dan rounds up a posse and heads out to tackle him, with John insisting on tagging along. Unfortunately it’s an ambush and they’re all slaughtered (oh dear)… except John just about survives, and is found and nursed back to life by a Native American, Tonto (Johnny Depp). He has his own grievances, and together they set out on a mission of revenge.

And if you’re wondering where Helena Bonham Carter is in all that: despite her prominence on many of the posters, her role is really just a cameo. That’s marketing, folks.

I know some people complain about simplistic stories that are used to just string action sequences together, and that’s a perfectly valid thing to get annoyed about, but The Lone Ranger swings to the other extreme and uses an over-complicated story to string together its action sequences. All it actually needs is a little streamlining, because the film is allowed to swing off into too many sideplots. This makes the middle of the film a slog, and you feel every minute of its excessive two-and-a-half-hour running time.

That slog is made worthwhile by what comes before and after said middle: a pair of train-based action sequences that are each truly fantastic. The second, in particular, is arguably amongst the grandest climaxes ever put on screen (providing you don’t feel it’s tipped too far into being overblown, of course). It’s inventively choreographed, fluidly shot, and perfectly scored with just an extended barnstorming version of the Lone Ranger’s theme music (aka the William Tell Overture). It’s an adrenaline-pumping action sequence that single-handedly justifies the entire film’s existence, if you’re into that kind of thing.

With multiple trains, horses, actors, guns, stunts, and copious CGI to tie it together, that sequence must’ve cost a bomb. Notoriously, the whole film was deemed too expensive and Disney insisted the budget be slashed, resulting in delays… and it still cost a fortune. That, quite apart from the negative critical response in the US, is a big part of why it flopped at the box office — a recurring problem for Disney at the minute. To be frank, I’m not convinced anyone made a truly concerted effort to stem the overspend. When a gaggle of CG rabbits hopped on screen, all I could think was, “who allowed this?!” You’ve got a massively over-budgeted film that the studio want cut back, and one reason for that is CG bunnies that have almost no bearing on anything whatsoever! The amount of time and effort that must’ve gone into creating those fairly-realistic rabbits for such a short amount of screen time… it cost millions, surely. Millions that could’ve been saved with a simple snip during the writing stage if only someone had said, “well, those bunnies don’t add anything and they’ll be bloody expensive, so let’s lose them.”

So criticism is not unfounded, but the film doesn’t deserve the level of vitriolic scorn poured on it by the US press and, consequently, public. Discussing this, the “critical response” section on the film’s Wikipedia page is interesting, and this part pretty much nails it:

Mark Hughes of Forbes, analyzing what he felt was a “flop-hungry” press desiring to “control the narrative and render the outcome they insisted was unavoidable” for a highly expensive movie with much-publicized production troubles, found the film “about a hundred times better than you think it is … [a] well-written, well-acted, superbly directed adventure story.”

I’m not quite as effusive as Hughes, but The Lone Ranger is worth the time of anyone who enjoys an action-adventure blockbuster. It’s a three-star adventure-comedy bookended by a pair of five-star railroad action sequences, which make the trudge through the film’s middle hour-or-so feel worthwhile. There was a better movie to be made here — one that was half-an-hour shorter, more focused, and probably several tens of millions of dollars cheaper to make — but that doesn’t mean the one we got is meritless.

4 out of 5

The Relatively Lacklustre Monthly Update for November 2015

It’s a busy old time on 100 Films as December starts: the advent calendar has begun, including its first review, with the second imminent, and this round-up of last month too. So let’s get cracking:


#173 Horns (2013)
#174 Force Majeure (2014), aka Turist
#175 The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
#176 Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
#177 The Lone Ranger (2013)
#178 Come Drink with Me (1966), aka Dà Zuì Xiá
#179 Inside Out (2015)
#179a Riley’s First Date? (2015)
#179b Lava (2014)
#180 Tank Girl (1995)
#180a The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Extended Edition (2014/2015)
#181 Ant-Man (2015)
#182 Paddington (2014)


  • No WDYMYHS film this month. A whole third of them are left as I head into December. It’s not impossible to catch that up, but this isn’t how it’s meant to work.
  • You may’ve noticed the number of posted reviews slow down this month. Two reasons: 1) I finally exhausted my rolling backlog of ready-to-post reviews and have been tardy extending it again; 2) most of what I have been writing are stockpiled for the advent calendar. Oops.


This month was never going to be a record-breaker. After the extreme lengths I went to in the last two, and with some time-filling TV series arriving, it felt almost liberating to know I didn’t have to try as hard in November. A little too liberating, maybe, because I nearly ballsed it up…

Normally this analysis section is a list of the month’s achievements; at least, it has been so far this year. However, there’s very little to report in that field this month: 10 all-new feature films watched is the lowest of 2015. In fact, it’s the lowest-totalling month since July 2014. It’s also the first month this year not to beat its equivalent from the year before (November 2014 reached 13). Nonetheless, it beats the November average of 7.43 (raising it slightly to 7.75 in the process), and manages to maintain my ten-per-month goal (just). That makes it the 18th straight month to have ten or more films — only one month to go and I’ll have achieved an entire calendar year of it.

Before we look to the future, what has November’s relative shortfall done for 2015’s monthly average? Well, after the double whammy of best-ever-months in September and October skyrocketed the average to 17.2, November being the year’s worst month pulls it back down to 16.5. Still a good number, and higher than it was for most of the year, which just shows how extraordinary that September/October double was.

So with just a single month to go, where might 2015’s total lie? No lower than #192, that’s for sure. “For sure” in this case meaning “because if it doesn’t I’ll have failed my ten-per-month goal at the final hurdle and be inconsolable with self-disappointment.” Can I go even further, though? The December average is 10.86, so eleven new films would nudge me that little further to… #193, obviously. If I return to my last-year-beating ways, I’d watch 16 films and make it to #198; though if I can go that little further again and match the 2015 average — 16.5, remember, which rounds up to 17 — then I’ll get to #199.

None of which are #200, the magic number I considered last month. Damn close, though. Maybe… with a little stretch… who knows?



It’s the last hurrah of my repostathon! Everything I’m likely to bother reposting from previous iterations of this blog is now on WordPress.

To round things off, then, a pair of year-end summaries each for Years 1 to 4, aka 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. (Although the rest of 2011 was part of the repostathon, the year-end summaries were some of the first things I posted on WordPress.)



The 6th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
It’s a little bit of a flat month for these first two categories. Well, that’s a mite unfair: I certainly enjoyed every film I watched this month, but nothing was a mind-blowing best-of-year-contender stand-out success. The nearest to such an achievement, however, was probably the sweet, loveable, joyous, ever-so-British Paddington.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
As I said above, I enjoyed every film I watched this month. Every last one. Well, situations like that are why this category is called “least favourite” rather than “worst”. Although it won’t be the lowest star rating awarded from this month’s viewing, the ‘victor’ here is Inside Out, because it underwhelmed me after all the hype.

Best Longwinded Storyteller
Oi, Peter Jackson — hands off! You can’t have this for The Hobbit! No, this goes to another verbose yarn-weaver: Michael Peña’s Luis from Ant-Man, whose stories may be just as filled with lengthy and pointless asides, but at least they’re highly amusing.

Best Action Climax on a Train
Most months, Ant-Man’s amusing tussle aboard a Thomas the Tank Engine playset would be a clear winner here. Did you ever think you’d see Thomas the Tank in a major Hollywood blockbuster? Thank you, Edgar Wright. But sadly it is not to be victorious, because by jiminy does the finale of The Lone Ranger justify the existence of the entire movie.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
I’ve mentioned before how participating in a blogathon can often sway this category (understandably), and so it was to be in November: swashing his buckle all the way to the top of the pile was Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad.


Busy busy busy, as I race towards my definitely-record-breaking final tally.