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Hammerle on ... 'The Lone Ranger,' 'The Heat'

Robert Hammerle
July 17, 2013
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The Lone Ranger

Remember that old hateful promotional TV ad starring Kelly LeBrock where she immortalized the conceited phrase, “Don’t hate me because I am beautiful?” Well, let me paraphrase it by saying, “Don’t hate me because I liked ‘The Lone Ranger.’” From my view, what most of today’s critics are missing is the movie’s great strength, namely its historical significance.

Rip him if you will, but I thought Johnny Depp was a blast in his role as Tonto. Here he tells his life story to a young lad while participating in a traveling road show in 1933 where he appears as a human mannequin labeled the “Noble Savage.”

rating-ranger.gifBeginning in 1869, Tonto relives his own tragic childhood. Having befriended two white stragglers for a cheap pocket watch, they wipe out his small tribe after he leads them to a rich silver deposit. It is a heartbreaking story and reflects the theme of the film where Native Americans are on the verge of becoming ghosts in their own land.

Against this backdrop, the vagabond Tonto meets the delusional Armie Hammer, playing a character returning to the Old West after graduating from law school. Mr. Hammer’s John Reid/Lone Ranger is dedicated to the cause of justice, and he sees no need for a gun. He’s wrong.

As Reid joins a posse of rangers led by his brother (James Badge Dale) in pursuit of the notorious Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), they ride into a death trap. Luckily, Reid survives with the reluctant help of Tonto, and he begins to wear his classic mask to hide his identity.

Tom Wilkinson, great as always, plays Cole, one of the ruthless railroad tycoons building the transcontinental rail line. Besides befriending Cavendish, he secretly violates treaties with the surviving Comanches, inducing the military to wrongfully attack them when they rise up in righteous anger. He is as hateful here as he was loveable in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2011).

A large battle is looming as Reid gradually wrestles with the reality that justice is little more than a figment of his law school imagination. In a sense, it was like being a defense lawyer in Indianapolis under our prior prosecutor, only to learn that he allegedly authorized the release of a convicted killer after receiving what appears to be a large campaign contribution. Maybe I should have followed the Lone Ranger’s lead and worn a mask into court.

So despite the film’s shortcomings, I strongly maintain that it provides a window into our ugly national past. Millions of roaming buffalo were nearly made extinct simply to get them out of the way of our future rail lines. Native Americans were viciously eliminated because this was now our land and not theirs.

I should also note that the magnificent dueling train chase seen at the conclusion of the film enthralled even the film’s harshest critics. Done to the “William Tell Overture,” it produced the same undeniable thrill that I felt as a kid watching the old series on TV.

So think young, embrace history and go see The Lone Ranger.

The Heat

Simply stated, this is the best female buddy picture since “Thelma and Louise” (1991). It is vulgar, profane and frequently hysterical beyond words. It’s as if modern science developed a way to combine the DNA of Mae West and W.C. Fields, resulting in the glorious Melissa McCarthy.

Written by Katie Dippold, director Paul Feig has brought us a delicious concoction that centers on a stressed out FBI agent and a maniacal Boston police officer. Sandra Bullock has never been better as the uptight federal agent, and Melissa McCarthy is the girl from another planet, a woman who views shame as a virtue.

Ms. Bullock’s agent, known as Ashburn, has been assigned to a Boston investigation by her New York superior simply to get her out of his hair. Desiring nothing but personal advancement, she has alienated all of her co-workers with her arrogance.

Unfortunately for her, she finds herself given Ms. McCarthy’s officer Mullins as a partner. Israel and Hamas have more in common than these two ladies.

rating-heat.gifPut another way, Ashburn operates by the book and Mullins has never read it. In scene after scene, Ms. McCarthy explodes with a toxic venom. While arresting a man for patronizing a prostitute, she calls his wife on his cell phone while crushing his knuckles with the other hand. She threatens to shoot a drug suspect in the scrotum if he won’t answer questions, firing a couple empty rounds just to test his resilience.

While Ms. Bullock looks on in complete horror, Ms. McCarthy ups her comic ante at every turn. In particular, there is an unforgettable scene where Mullins is forced to take Ashburn to meet her estranged family. It seems that one of her brothers just got out of prison, while the others consistently pepper Ashburn with such profound questions as, “Are you a man?” And when she gives the obvious answer, the next question is, “Did it happen at birth or did you have an operation?”

But don’t make the mistake that this is simply a comedy, as our odd couple continually flirts with disaster as they try to identify their drug target. People die, which nearly includes our duo, but nothing is going to remotely stop Mullins’ poisonous assaults on whoever is nearby, be they friend or foe.

Sure, as a lawyer it is sometimes difficult to overlook the ladies as they violate a citizen’s constitutional rights. On the other hand, we all know that objections are routinely sustained in a court of law, so I was more than willing to apply that same theory to our girls as they occasionally had to break into an apartment without a warrant.

Regardless, while Ms. Bullock is very good here, nothing compares to Ms. McCarthy. To use a favorite phrase, no one in the history of film, man or woman, has ever been this full of piss and vinegar. She is a walking volcano, eating poorly and dressing worse. Yet you can’t help but love her malicious intensity, and it is impossible to take your eyes off of her.•

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Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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