In the western genre of motion pictures, "The Lone Ranger" ranks right up there with the more unusual.
While not as odd as "Cowboys & Aliens" (2011), it's not in the classic style of director Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" (1992), "3:10 to Yuma" (the 2007 version and 1957 original) or director John Ford's "The Searchers" (1956), starring John Wayne.
However, "The Lone Ranger," despite the reviling reactions of many movie critics, has a lot to recommend it.
It is one of the wildest of movies about the Wild West as you're likely to see.
The movie is book-ended by a Wild West style traveling show diorama display of "The Noble Savage In His Habitat." Yes, that's Johnny Depp under the layers of prosthetics to make him look like an elderly man. He gestures and speaks to a young man. As he does, the story of Tonto, the legendary character Depp portrays, is told.
Let's deal with political correctness right away. Depp, who has said he is part-Native American, has been criticized for being a Caucasian playing a Native-American. Similar criticism was leveled at Dustin Hoffman in the movie, "Little Big Man" (1970) and many others over the years in Hollywood. My sense is that an assessment of an actor portraying a character on film should not be solely based on the litmus test of ethnicity.
Depp succeeds in creating a memorable Tonto. He does so, with bow-legged gait, twitchy body movements, mirthful facial expressions, including those quizzical eyebrows and double-take eyes, employing a deep resonant voice, white retaining an underlying respect for the Native-American heritage.
Depp cultivates a good rapport with Armie Hammer ("The Social Network") as John Reid, aka The Lone Ranger. Other stand-out actors include Helena Bonham Carter as the madam of a house of ill repute, and Tom Wilkinson, almost unrecognizable in full beard, as Cole, a corporate tycoon.
William Fichtner creates a really despicable villain in Butch Cavendish. Ruth Wilson is well-cast as Rebecca Reid, the damsel in distress role.
There is a beautiful white horse, which is shown to be none too smart, providing some of the film's many laughs.
"The Lone Ranger" invokes the end of the western frontier, with the arrival of the Transcontinental Railroad; the use of the United States military to enforce the law of the law; and the wresting of the "habitat" from the "noble savage."
The film references "The Two Treatises of Government" by John Locke, which argues against a divine patriarchy and advocates a civil society of equals.
Oh, and, by the way, the film also has a local angle of sorts. "That's reinforced Bethlehem Steel," it's stated at one point.
Gore Verbinski ("Rango," "Pirates of the Caribbean" series) directs with his usual audacious style, invoking many western tropes (a train chase, among them).
The screenplay by Justin Haythe ("Snitch," "Revolutionary Road") and Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio ("Pirates of the Caribbean" series, "Shrek") is a thinly-veiled indictment of the policy of Manifest Destiny, whereby United States government officials laid claim to the continent within the borders from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The film has a distinct non post-9-11 slant. This is why, I think, and not because of any egregious flaws in the film-making, that "The Lone Ranger" has received such a critical drubbing.
The action in "The Lone Ranger" is spectacular. The on-location filming in director John Ford's territory of Monument Valley is terrific. The familiar "William Tell Overture," which was "The Lone Ranger" radio and TV show theme, is invoked for the closing sequence, which is one of the most thrilling of any of the summer movies and is almost as thrilling as the film's opening sequence.
Hans Zimmer's score, cinematography by Bojan Bazelli and Johnny Depp's idiosyncratic acting make "The Lone Ranger" a movie to be enjoyed in the popcorn and soda style in which it was apparently intended.
"The Lone Ranger, "MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13) for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material; Genre: Action, Adventure, Western; Run time: 2 hrs., 29 mins.; Distributed by Disney Pictures.
Credit Readers Anonymous: "The Lone Ranger" closing credits include Johnny Depp as Tonto walking into the distance in Monument Valley.
Box Office, July 12: "Despicable Me 2" made it two in a row at No. 1, with a solid $44.7 million and $229.3 million in two weeks, edging out "Grown Ups 2," with a strong $42.5 million, opening at No. 2, and "Pacific Rim," with a respectable $38.3 million, opening at No. 3.
4. "The Heat," $14 million, $112.3 million, three weeks; 5. "The Lone Ranger," $11.1 million, $71.1 million, two weeks; 6. "Monsters University," $10.6 million, $237.7 million, four weeks; 7. "World War Z," $9.4 million, $177 million, four weeks; 8. "White House Down," $6.1 million, $62.9 million, three weeks; 9. "Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain," $5 million, $26.3 million, two weeks; 10. "Man of Steel," $4.8 million, $280.9 million, five weeks
Unreel, July 19:
"Red 2," PG-13: The AARP spy team is back, including Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren, this time joined by Anthony Hopkins and a young guy, Byung-hun Lee, in the action-comedy about tracking down a missing nuclear device.
"R.I.P.D.," PG-13: The Rest In Peace Department brings Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds back from the beyond to fight crime in the fantasy-comedy also starring Kevin Bacon and Mary-Louise Parker.
"Turbo," PG: Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph and Samuel L. Jackson are among the voice talent in the animated family film about a snail who races in the Indy 500.
"The Conjuring," R: There's a farmhouse. There's a presence. There are paranormal investigators. The horror film stars Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson and Lili Taylor.
"Girl Most Likely," PG-13: Kristen Wiig stars as a New York playwright. Matt Dillon and Annette Bening also star in the comedy.
"Only God Forgives," R: Director Nicolas Winding Refn ("Drive") reteams with Ryan Gosling in a crime-thriller about a Bangkok drug smuggler. Kristin Scott Thomas costars.
Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, lehighvalleypress. com or the Times-News web site, tnonline.com. Email Paul Willistein: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes