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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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  1. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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