Commentary

July 12, 2013

Fly Over: ‘Hesher’, and ‘The Lone Ranger’

Hesher-movie-poster

‘Hesher’

The trailers for “Hesher,” a 2010 drama starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the title character, looked pretty interesting. Unfortunately, the movie is mediocre at best, despite a good performance by the protagonist, played by child actor Devin Brochu, whose age is curiously not readily available on the Internet.
Brochu plays T.J., a junior high-age boy who lives with his father, Paul (Rainn Wilson of “The Office”), and his grandmother (Piper Laurie). His mother has just died two months prior, and a cloud of sorrow and apathy hangs over the family.
Paul is emotionally disconnected, in a constant haze from prescription pills, while T.J. spends his days riding his bike around aimlessly, often recklessly, sometimes committing small acts of vandalism. One day T.J. throws a rock through the window of an abandoned house where a young man, Hesher, is squatting. The cops show up, and both young men are forced to flee.
A few years older than T.J., Hesher is an antisocial, long-haired self-styled rocker. A large tattoo on his back, portraying a fist with the middle finger raised, symbolizes his attitude toward the world.
Hesher inexplicably shows up at T.J.’s house a few hours later, does a load of laundry and moves in, setting up a cot and his guitar equipment in the garage. In the evenings, he joins the family at their dinner table, often wearing nothing but his underwear.
At school, T.J. is bullied by a mean-spirited, dimwitted older boy, Dustin (Brendan Hill). One day T.J. vandalizes Dustin’s car in retaliation and Dustin chases him down in the parking lot of a grocery store. Right when Dustin is getting ready to beat him up, T.J. is rescued by a supermarket checker, Nicole (Natalie Portman), who was leaving the store after her shift.
T.J. and Nicole strike up a friendship. T.J.’s life, meanwhile, becomes more chaotic with the influence of Hesher. Drama soon arises between the three of them. Sadly, none of it is very interesting. I thought it would be entertaining to see Gordon-Levitt play against type, but this isn’t one of his better roles.
Brochu, however, brings a lot to the character of T.J. For someone so young, he has a very expressive face and dark bags under his eyes that seem to suggest he carries the burdens and world-weariness of someone much older.
Natalie Portman – normally one of my favorite actresses – is very forgettable in a poorly developed role.
We learn at the end that the story does have a moral, but the payoff isn’t worth the 1 hour 40 minutes of dark, somewhat plodding drama we have to sit through to get there.
The movie was directed and cowritten by Spencer Susser. This is his only feature-length film.
“Hesher” is rated R for language, violence and drug use.

“The only reason to see “Hesher” is to cringe before Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of its scary, hot-wired title character, a violent California drifter who barges into the home of a grieving suburban family and is given the run of the house. You see, this character, who is given no back story, is Life with a capital L. He is the Forneys’ guardian angel who rouses them out of their funk. Given the movie’s U-turn into allegory, maybe he’s supposed to be a punk Jesus.”
— The New York Times

TheLoneStar

‘The Lone Ranger’

I’ve never been a fan of the 1950’s “The Lone Ranger” television series, mostly out of indifference than any particular distaste for it. Most of what I knew about the series came from a reference in the second Ace Ventura movie.
But that’s the point of a reboot: to get the next generation of viewers interested with the old property. Does 2013’s “The Lone Ranger” accomplish this? Not really, but that’s not to say there wasn’t anything else to take from it.
Set during the western expansion in 1869, the film follows John Reid (Armie Hammer), a lawyer who follows the law almost religiously. When the infamous outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) escapes custody, John is deputized by his sheriff brother and the two give chase.
After a deadly ambush, John wakes up to find Tonto (Johnny Depp), a Comanche who is also tracking Butch. Tonto reluctantly accepts John’s assistance, but insists that he wear a mask to hide his identity, as everyone else assumes he’s dead. The two travel across the desert, but their mission soon becomes more and more complicated.
Those who have seen the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films will know what to expect from “The Lone Ranger” (they all have the same director, Gore Verbinski). While odd at first, the dark atmosphere works, and the comedy melds with the more serious scenes well enough. However, many story elements and character traits are introduced and followed for a time, but eventually they just fade away. The same goes for some of the characters as well.
The plot itself is nothing particularly exciting (at least, not the one the film ends up sticking with), and it’s easy to tell where the story will go next, but John and Tonto at least were consistently entertaining throughout.
As hilarious as it is that Armie Hammer, the Lone Ranger, gets second billing in all the trailers and posters, Johnny Depp’s Tonto is probably the main reason most people will see it and for good reason.
Without opening that can of worms called “political correctness,” Tonto still has his own identity and makes for a good protagonist, even if one can easily compare him with Depp’s own Jack Sparrow from the Pirates movies.
Armie Hammer does a good job as the lead character, with most of the problems I saw being due primarily to the script. The same could be said for William Fichtner’s Butch and Barry Pepper’s Captain Fuller. The only other performance worth mentioning is Tom Wilkinson as railroad tycoon Latham Cole, who looked as if he was about to fall asleep in every scene he was in.
I’m not sure what to think about the film’s soundtrack; it seems to go all over the place, particularly near the end. Aside from the lack of focus in the plot, there were some things in the script that just seemed weird, like the Ranger’s horse acting cartoonish or a pack of rabbits that will probably haunt the dreams of the younger audience members.
If there’s anything to really praise about this film, it’s the stunt work and the effects. Some stunts were computer generated while others were good-old-fashioned hard work, but I wasn’t distracted from the story whenever they occurred. And kudos for making the Lone Ranger’s mask acceptable, despite the movie’s own attempts to poke fun at it.
All things considered, “The Lone Ranger” was not a terrible film, just one that doesn’t really accomplish anything.
“The Lone Ranger” is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material.

“The fatal flaw in Jerry Bruckheimer’s monumentally monotonous production is that it forgets it’s duty to entertain. Director Gore Verbinski keeps trying to show how much smarter he is than a filmmaker who would simply wallow in tradition.”
— Rolling Stone




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