Arts & Entertainment

Doug George-Kanentiio: Tonto lives up to name in Lone Ranger

Photo from Jerry Bruckheimer on Twitter

Tonto means “stupid” in Spanish and The Lone Ranger obviously relishes not only that name but uses it to describe anyone suckered into this 150 minute mess.

Nothing makes sense in the film from the stunning lack of historical accuracy to the silly action sequences, the simplistic dialogue or the physical settings.

At one moment the characters are in the dust plains of what is supposed to be Texas then riding through Arizona’s Monument Valley before having their ranches burned in what looks like the high mountain meadows of the Canadian Rockies.

Tonto is placed in a diorama at the beginning of the movie, a take off on Dustin Hoffman in “Little Big Man” but without the acting. Is he Ishi, the last of his tribe, or a 120 year old man trolling for peanuts and cracked corn? There are scenes with cannibalistic rabbits, a horse which licks up scorpions before donning a white cowboy hat, a bad guy ripping out a human heart before eating it and a prostitute who has a hollow ivory leg containing a double barreled shotgun.

There is a US cavalry officer who is modeled after Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and a band of hefty, attacking Comanches who ride full force into the bullets of a Gatling gun.

There are explosions by the score. A bridge collapses in the same manner as in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” while Gandalf in “Lord of the Rings” would have been proud in the way the Comanches descended from the mountain clouds to launch a foolish assault on the cavalry, the Indians armed only with arrows and a few war clubs.

Racing trains scenes are taken from Buster Keaton’s “The General” , a burning barn from “O Brother Where Art Thou?”, a cavalry charge from “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”; all from a script written by Homer Simpson but he does not get the credit he deserves.

Tonto is played by Johnny Depp but is it for laughs or is there something else at play? The white men are, with one exception, dirty, vicious and have bad teeth. They drink to excess, kill without hesitation and wear the worse cowboy gear in recent memory. From their odd, backward hats to a pocket watch decades out of place the strange costumes are but a part of a movie which is itself out of place and without anything to recommend it.

Tonto speaks at times using perfect English but then reverts back to dialogue which is beyond childish. Mr. Depp may have spent months on the set but he is not physically fit for the role. He lacks muscle tone which is disguised by a black breastplate and odd tattoos. His face, which may have added something to the actual miniscule of acting, is hidden behind white paint which must have been etched into his skin for it does not fade or wash away even when he is plunged deep into a mountain stream.

Armie Hammer, the Lone Ranger, should have been called ‘Tonto” for he is one stupid lawyer. He refuses to use a gun but will not hesitate to rob a bank and blow things to hell. He is a medical marvel surviving gunshot wounds and arrow piercings, being dragged along on his head and then buried alive but still manages to emerge with a clean white shirt and pressed suit.

Wasted in this film are the otherwise great talents of Tom Wilkinson, Barry Pepper and Helena Bonham Carter.

Perhaps Mr. Depp wanted this disaster to happen so he could, in the most appropriate words of the movie, utter the phrase which best describes the producers, writers and director: “Stupid white men”.

Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, is a co-founder of the Native American Journalists Association, a former member of the Board of Trustees for the National Museum of the American Indian and the author of many books and articles about Native history and current issues. His latest book is "Iroquois on Fire". He may be reached via e-mail: Kanentiio resides on Oneida Iroquois Territory in central New York State.

More from Doug George-Kanentiio:
Doug George-Kanentiio: Mohawks in War of 1812 save Canada (06/19)
Doug George-Kanentiio: St. Regis Mohawk Tribe can't sell land (06/07)

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