I love Westerns. I love that they intrinsically carry messages of hope, possibility and freedom, that they contain within them a deep sense of myth for a time when a country was arguably at its most fascinating. Even more than that, I love that, when you see a grizzled, sun-bothered stranger wander into town with menace in his eye and a Colt in his hand, you know it's on. Even more than that, when the gathering townsfolk see that man, THEY know it's on. The Western has been declared dead so many times before now it's difficult to keep track. Sure, this isn't the Western's 50s or 60s heyday, but the genre is still alive; despite so often being referred to as 'dead,' last decade had itself some outstanding Western joints, including The Assassination of Jesse James, There Will Be Blood, Seraphim Falls, Open Range, Brokeback Mountain, The Proposition, neo-Western No Country For Old Men and TV's Deadwood. But this new decade has already thrown up a few new gems - not all of them in the movies - to add to the list. Here are ten of them.
10. The Lone Ranger (2013)
Were stars Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer and producer Jerry Bruckheimer right when they theorised that critics trashed The Lone Ranger for its budget rather than its content, writing their reviews months in advance? Well, it doesn't really matter now, as The Lone Ranger died harder than John Dillinger at the box office, making only $250 million, a figure which is considered high everywhere in the world, except in the movies. The Lone Ranger has problems - it is unnecessarily lengthy, and Armie Hammer doesn't make the most engaging lead - but it makes the other grave and portentous blockbusters of 2013 look like they all need to chill out and watch some Bake-Off. The Lone Ranger has fun in its own way, and features grand spectacle after grand spectacle, with absurdist humour and stuntwork harking back to the silent era. The inclusion of Depp's Tonto as an unreliable narrator, an old man telling the Lone Ranger story to a young fan, also adds a layer to the film - is he embellishing? Is the story invented, just his way to perpetuate the myth of the Lone Ranger? It even puts producers in the clear for that Depp-as-Native American casting choice - the man may not be Comanche at all, but just an actor for a travelling show. The Lone Ranger is an enormous picture with a light heart, and nowhere near as bad as you've heard. Try the opening runaway train set-piece, it's delicious.