Good news, Washington Redskins! For one glorious weekend in the summer of 2013, your unapologetically racist franchise mascot is not the most grotesque pop culture representation of Native Americans! One can only imagine owner Dan Snyder pounding copious shots of “firewater” in celebration when he heard they cast Johnny Depp, a living pinnacle of paleness, as Tonto in The Lone Ranger.
Depp’s hypothetical heritage that might excuse his abhorrent casting was only once mentioned, in a decade-old interview in which he stated, “I guess I have some Native American.” Admittedly, the website ethnicelebs.com may not be a bastion of journalistic integrity, but it does put a finer number on things. According to the site, Depp is 1/2048 Powhatan Native American. For context, he is 3/2048 black, so look for him as Rosa Parks in Don’t Take My Seat.
In a desperate attempt to make it look like they weren’t continuing America’s proud tradition of shitting on native peoples, writers Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio essentially made The Lone Ranger Tonto’s story. The actual Lone Ranger, John Reid (Armie Hammer), is presented as a half-wit prissy boy who wants to bang his brother’s wife. When the evil Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) escapes custody and kills John’s brother, John joins forces with Tonto to hunt him down. And there’s something about Tom Wilkinson trying to acquire enough silver to make King Kong a rapper’s grille, and Helena Bonham Carter has a gun for a leg.
If it were just intent on achieving stupidity, The Lone Ranger would have outkicked its coverage. Honestly, the best part is knowing that preproduction of the film was halted at one point to rewrite the script because of a ballooning budget. The cause of the cash crisis? Werewolves. Sight unseen, that was a better script. All we get here are bloodthirsty, fanged bunny rabbits and a villain who eats a human heart. And yet, cannibalism is the least horrifying thing a human being does to other human beings in this movie. Think these claims of racism are too much? Consider the framing device in which Tonto is included in an exhibit called “The Noble Savage” in a carnival sideshow. This is a thing that people wrote, acted in and recorded.
Never has a revered fictional hero of the past been treated with the vast amount of contempt that is shown to Mr. The Lone Ranger. Tonto spends most of the film telling him that he should have died instead of his brother and his horse actually does more heroic deeds than he does. Not to beat a dead horse about how bad this film is, but they actually beat a dead horse in it. Nonironically.
After The Tourist, no flaccid dreck that Depp excretes for a paycheck can be surprising. Everyone involved should be red-faced about this “red face” reboot. If it somehow launches a franchise, at least the Washington Redskins will send congratulatory flowers.
This review first appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Neb.
Rating: Half a star out of four stars