Flawed Ranger fails to keep it gentle

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While by no means the stinker that we have been led to believe after its critical mauling and box office failure in the US, The Lone Ranger (Cert 12A) is a deeply flawed film.

The clue is in that figure of $250m being bandied about as the production budget because what sinks the film is overkill. It’s not content to be a gentle pastiche of the Fifties children’s television Western series about a masked cowboy and his faithful Indian sidekick but reduces it to a double act between a dim-witted Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) and a smarter but eccentric Comanche (Johnny Depp) wearing a dead crow on his head.

Presumably producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski’s the overall plan was to bring the ingredients of their Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to the old West.

But the mixture of action and comedy is like oil and water. On the one hand we have some witty one-liners and amusing slapstick comedy and on the other extreme violence meted out by a sadistic villain (William Fichtner) who at one point rips the heart out of a victim and eats it. Just for good measure it bombards you with allusions to classic Westerns, most obviously John Ford and Sergio Leone.

And it opens with a scene reminiscent of Little Big Man which proves to be a framing device for the film in which an ancient Tonto with heavily lined face in 1933 San Francisco recounts for a young fan of the Lone Ranger radio show the untold tales of how naive young lawyer John Reid became a legend of justice-taking.

An overly complicated plot of a corrupt railroad baron (Tom Wilkinson), secret silver mines, a one-legged bordello madame (Helena Bonham Carter, who else?), a winsome widow (Ruth Wilson) with a plucky young son and a comedy white horse drag out the film on through two and a half hours. By the time we get to the extended climax in which the rousing William Tell Overture (the Lone Ranger signature tune) accompanies spectacular action of runaway trains and bridge explosions we just want it to end.

You might have felt that Alan Partridge as a comedy was as much a yesterday man as the character himself and wonder if we needed a film version 11 years after his TV heyday. But by all accounts Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (Cert 15) triumphantly dispels the doubts. These days the hapless broadcaster plies his trade in the obscurity of North Norfolk Digital where he finds himself thrust into the centre of a hostage drama. Textbook Partridge.