***/**** Image A+ Sound A+ Extras A-
screenplay by John Logan
directed by Gore Verbinski
by Walter Chaw Before he succumbed to bloat with his two Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, Gore Verbinski struck me as a particularly bright light in American genre pictures. His remake of The Ring and the first Pirates of the Caribbean flick were a one-two step that seemed more indicative of his promise than the not-awful-in-retrospect The Mexican and the awful but not bloated Mousehunt. (Well, okay, it was a little bloated.) When he's right, his stuff plays a lot like South Korea's genre cinema: walking a tightrope between grotesquerie and lightness that happens so seldom outside of Seoul it's fair to wonder if proximity to an entertaining dictator is prerequisite. With the CG-animated, Industrial Light & Magic-assisted Rango, Verbinski teams again with muse Johnny Depp to send up Depp's muse Hunter S. Thompson in what functions as a kind of footnote to both Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Sergio Leone's four-film Spaghetti Western cycle. Unfortunately, it also references Polanski's Chinatown and Verbinski's own concept of an antiseptic purgatory from his endless Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.