Film Review Shorties: The Lone Ranger, RED 2 (2013)

The Lone Ranger (2013)

This is a long film, unnecessarily long. That’s a fair warning that ought to be on the posters – 149 minutes long. It feels it. Not really in a bad way, but it’s a 100 minute movie stretched out with origin stories. The framing device is Toto as an old man telling a kid dressed as the Lone Ranger about the real Lone Ranger. It’s okay, but it gets annoying really fast as whenever the film gets confused it snaps back to this kid watching an old Indian feed peanuts to his dead bird hat. Still – ignore all that stuff and the usual Hollywood treatment of female characters (ooh but she gets tetchy when they threaten her child) and you’re left with an enjoyable, if devastatingly predictable light Western.

Arnie Hammer has a shocking number of teeth, and that’s all I took away from his performance; he has no chemistry whatever with any other character. Depp’s Toto is less racist than expected but is just another slightly crazy character with inconsistent syntax. The bad guys (Tom Wilkinson and William Fichtner) are good fun, especially Fichtner as the facially scarred sadistic outlaw. There’s some nice montages of every train-based stunt you’ve ever seen in a film (nothing new though) and some fun firefights. A lot of them happen at a silver mine… I don’t know why Helena Bonham Carter‘s in it, although her scrimshawed artificial leg is lovely.

It ain’t bad, it just ain’t very original or good. It’s this goddamn obsession with origin stories – I don’t care, it wastes half the film chasing down four characters’ origins. Just tell the damn story. He’s a ranger right? So he’s some kind of cop, in Texas. Got it. And he’s alone – so he’s some kind of rogue renegade? Got it. And he’s got a cool horse (who they don’t name until the end and you will want to punch yourself) and a racist stereotype sidekick? Splendid – get to the action.

In retrospect The Lone Ranger is a weak mash-up of two far superior films: The Mask of Zorro and Shanghai Noon.

RED 2 (2013)

RED: Retired and Extremely Dangerous. An excellent premise for a comic book, which survived the film transition pretty well the first time round and returns for a fun sequel. Sure, some quality has gone but this is the kind of film where I want to judge it against the competition: The Expendables 2. Yeah, now RED 2 looks amazing. The difference is style – The Expandables has none, whereas this has Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Antony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta Jones (well…), Brian Cox, Byung-Hun Lee (cruelly uncredited on the poster despite being splendidly mean, kick ass and funny) and Bruce Willis.

Willis is possibly the only one of the ’80s action stars to make a genuine leap into any other genre and it shows in a film like this. The age of the actors is not ignored (oh god the half-naked Stallone) but used for character and comedy. Not that this is genius film making, but it’s fun. The action scenes are well choreographed and shot (bringing Lee in makes for great scraps – there’s a fight where he’s handcuffed to a fridge door!). I laughed out loud when they did the classic slow mo car spin with Mirren firing out of both car windows. There’s a love of the genre tropes and they play them well.

I really enjoyed this at the cinema. The chemistry between the cast is delightful. Malkovich is less nuts this time (shame) but plays nicely with Mary Louise Parker and Willis. Brian Cox’s amorous KGB agent and Mirren also pleased me greatly. I think it’s a film that will be best watched back to back with the original so that you don’t really notice the story gaps or lament the brief enjoyment of the cast.

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