The Pirates of the Caribbean crew - Johnny Depp, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski - hope to repeat the rollicking box office trick with the legend of The Lone Ranger.
However, their source material is not a Florida theme park ride but an enduring yarn that began life as a 1930s radio show and ran as a successful TV series featuring most famously Clayton Moore as "that masked man". Can the Lone Ranger legend sustain a modern franchise?
Bumbling, educated lawyer John Reid (Hammer) is thrown into Tonto’s path when saving the Indian from psychopathic outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner, who cameo’d in The Dark Knight and here plays a flamboyant villain with a scarred mouth).
Reid is deputised by his brother (James Badge Dale, last seen in Iron Man 3) and the hunt is on for Cavendish. But, a railroad is being driven through the West and tyrannical capitalist Cole (Wilkinson, himself a villain in Batman Begins) soon has Reid and Tonto in his sights when they start threatening the venture that will make him rich, his muscle being the US Army.
Despite worries that Depp would portray Tonto as a ridiculous Jack Sparrow-alike, his performance is one of the film’s strengths.
Pitched somewhere between Edward Scissorhands and his caricature of Hunter S Thompson in Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas, his Tonto is not the servant of the 50s serial, but a warrior cracked by a past tragedy that he seeks to avenge.
Instead Hammer is on buffoon detail, taking the film’s duration to evolve from inexperienced, civilised lawyer to rootin’ tootin’ gunslinger. With echoes of James Stewart’s character in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Hammer’s engaging performance means he deserves at least one more shot at A-list leading man before being consigned to the Taylor Kitsch bin.
Liberal lashings of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti style are applied to the film's look and feel. An attack on Reid’s sister-in-laws’ ranch is straight out of Once Upon A Time In The West, with small natural sounds amplified for tension before the villains’ assault.
The ubiquitous Hans Zimmer’s score is indebted to Ennio Morricone’s Italian classics, and the William Tell overture gets a sonic makeover for the riotous railroad finale.
Verbinski clearly knows how to stage action, with outstanding train-based set-pieces bracketing the film. Largely flawless CGI blends with impressive practical stunt work, the director boasting Spielberg’s flair in staging three different action scenes in one and tying them together.
He also peppers arresting moments throughout the indulgent running time; from Reid’s deputy badge being melted into the bullet with which he’ll take revenge to a women’s temperance union marching through a Sodom and Gomorrah style carnival.
Ultimately, Depp, Bruckheimer and Verbinski has just about Hi-Yo Silver got away with it...