The Lone Ranger: A gem of a western

Matinee at 3 p.m. Sunday, July 7
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Saturday, July 6, 2013 - 5:00pm
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The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) and Tonto (Johnny Depp)
The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) and Tonto (Johnny Depp)

"The Lone Ranger" is in town to take you on one hell of a ride, Kemosabe. Armie Hammer in the title role and Johnny Depp as Tonto are a dynamite combination. If you've read bad reviews, forget 'em. This is an adventure filled movie with the right amount of humor, camp and good old-fashioned Lone Ranger lore.

Against the backdrop of spectacular, jaw-dropping cinematography shot in New Mexico, Monument Valley in Utah and Canyon de Chelly in the Navajo Nation, "The Lone Ranger" tells the back story of the masked man as Tonto remembers it. It is a story of good versus evil, greed, the lust for power, revenge, love and history as lived by heroes, villians, a damsel in distress, a bordello madame sporting a scrimshaw leg with a powerful kick, a young boy, lawmen, Comanche Indians and Silver, the Spirit Horse.

In the opening scene, a boy dressed like a young Lone Ranger takes in an Old West exhibit at a 1933 fair. He passes glass cases of stuffed buffalo, bear and “The Noble Savage in his natural habitat.” When the elderly “savage,” Tonto, comes to life in front of the boy's eyes, he and the audience hear the story. (This bit reminded me of Dustin Hoffman in “Little Big Man.”)

The Intercontinental Railroad is being built across the west in the 1860s and railroad baron Latham Cole (Tom Wilkinson) has his sights set on more than train track (there's silver in them thar hills).

When we meet Tonto, he is a prisoner, in a box car on a train bound for Colby, Texas chained next to Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), a outlaw gunman with a reputation for eating the hearts of the men he kills.

Also riding on the train are a group of churchgoing, God-fearing folk and John Reid, Colby's newly appointed and very moral district attorney, bound for home.

John becomes aware of footsteps on top of the train; Cavendish's men have come to spring him. John becomes part of the fight as he wanders out of his care to find out what is going on leading to the first meeting with Tonto. The first runaway train of the film thunders through a town as the two fight their first battle

U.S. Marshall Dan Reid (James Badge Dale), brother of John, is sent with a team of rangers by Cole to capture Cavendish. Before Dan leaves, he deputizes John as a Texas Ranger, motivated by the knowledge that his wife Rebecca (Ruth Wilson) and John were sweethearts when they were teenagers.

The brothers set off with the rangers to find Cavendish and see a white horse standing majestically on high rocks.

As the Rangers journey on they are ambushed by the Cavendish gang. With great delight Cavendish tells the dying Dan he has never forgotten his year in prison while whipping out a long sharp knife. At this unfortunate moment, John, lying next to his brother, regains consciousness. Reflected through one of John's eyes that he half opens, we see Cavendish relishing in eating Dan's heart.

With all but one Ranger dead, or so Cavendish thinks, he and his gang take the ranger with them. Tonto arrives, digs graves for the rangers and prepares them for their spiritual journey placing a feather on their chests, until he gets to John who regains conciousness and gets a klunk on the head from Tonto.

The white horse, which Tonto recognizes as a Spirit Horse, arrives carrying John's white hat and stands in front of his grave. Tonto tells John because he died and came back he is a spirit walker and cannot be killed in battle.

Tonto lets John in on more than just a few secrets throughout the film, including the fact that the rangers were set up. From this point both men have their reasons for wanting justice for Cavendish.

Tonto has been looking for Cavendish for years after finding out he was the one that led the brutal savagery on Tonto's village, leaving no one alive except Tonto, approximately 8-10 years old, who was not there during the attack.

The Comanche village had taken in two badly injured white men and healed them. But when one of the men spies a piece of silver in the river, he wants to know if there is more. They tempt the boy Tonto with a silver Sears & Roebuck pocket watch if he tells them where the river starts.

Tonto takes them there and returns to death and destruction. Even his pet raven is dead and lying near the river. Marking his face with the blood of the bird, he vows to avenge the death of his tribe. This is his quest.

“When I kill you you will hear the screams of my ancestors ...”

Tonto says this line several times to Cavendish, only to be stopped by the Lone Ranger, who will not kill. (This bit reminded me of Mandy Patinkin's famous lines in “The Princess Bride”: "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”)

Tonto presents John with a mask, cut from Dan's vest, warning him “Never take off the mask.” The bad guys think he is dead, best to leave it that way.

When John eventually learns that Cole and Cavendish work together, that corruption is as far reaching as the railroad, he realizes that he must work for justice a little outside the law.

As John says to Tonto, “There is no justice.” This time when Tonto hands him his mask, John takes it much more willingly than the first time.

The ending is classic old time fun that will have you cheering and clapping in your seat (well, that's what happened to me, anyway).

Runaway trains on parallel tracks carrying cart after cart of silver, explosions … well, you must see it for yourself. One more thing: the addition of the William Tell Overture during the climax of the film is priceless.

The film reminded a friend who accompanied me to the show of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films. No coincidence there. Two of "The Lone Ranger" scriptwriters, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio wrote the "Pirates of the Caribbean" screenplays. The third writer, Justin Haythe rewrote their version. Other "Pirates" personages involved with The Lone Ranger was director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. 

Rumor has it both Hammer and Sparrow, I mean, Depp, have already signed on to do a sequel. Hi-Ho Silver, away!

Polling numerous movie-goers after the show, nary a bad comment was spoken. What they did say was “Amazing,” “Terriffic,” “I loved it,” “I have to see this one again,” “Fantastic, not what I expected,” and, the best for last, “I had to go to the restroom in the middle of the movie, but I didn't go!”

But you should. To The Harbor Theater, that is. See "The Lone Ranger" for yourself. Like I said, it's one hell of a ride. And if you'e like me, you'll be clapping, laughing and cheering this unlikely team of heroes on.

The theater is in the Meadow Mall across from Hannaford's. "The Lone Ranger" is shown nightly through July 11 at 7 p.m. with a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, July 7.