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Lawman

Burt Lancaster , Robert Ryan , Michael Winner    Unrated   VHS Tape
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Burt Lancaster is excellent as the title character, a pitiless, unbending marshal out to arrest seven cowhands who left a dead man in the wake of a drunken tear, in this stoic, modern take on a classic Western theme. He confronts a rancher baron, trigger-happy gunmen, and the cowardly hypocrites of a frontier town: the usual bunch of Old West types sculpted into intriguing character by a crack cast. Robert Ryan brings a sad dignity to his former gunfighter tamed into a meek town marshal, and Lee J. Cobb is introspective and thoughtful as the aging cattleman weary of his life of violence: "It took guns to take this land, guns to keep it, and guns to make it grow.... Each time we bury the cost." Robert Duvall, Albert Salmi, and a young Richard Jordan (as an idealistic cowpoke whose sense of honor gets a workout in the complex conflicts) also star.

The first American feature by British director Michael Winner (who went on to make numerous tough Charles Bronson pictures, including the first three Death Wish movies) is lean and tough, with a streak of "passing of an era" melancholia, but surprisingly old-fashioned. The hard-edged, unsentimental violence, arid, austere look of the picture, and distracting overuse of zoom shots mark it as an unmistakable product of the early 1970s, but it's not so much cynical as sorrowful in its clash of ideals, and never less than clear-eyed in the presentation of harsh frontier realities. --Sean Axmaker


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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
I am compelled to write a review of Lawman in an attempt to dispell some oft repeated misunderstandings about the film. The most common error applied to the film is that it is morally ambiguous. Lawman the film is not morally ambiguous as such. The Lawman, Jered Maddox (Lancaster), is clearly the most outstanding and praiseworthy figure or character in the film. The confusion comes in only if we attempt to univeralize morality in a Kantian fashion, thereby making the actions of the Lawman "immoral" because of his willingness to use force. The fact that the majority of the other characters are immoral or simply utilitarian (looking only to their self intersest) in their moral views does not in any way mystify the issue to those willing to clearly look at the circumstances of the story. A bunch of drunken cowboys accidentally killed an old man and refuse to return to the scene of the crime to stand trial, insisting it was an accident and that it should not matter anyway. Maddox, knowing full well the kind of arrogance and blatant disregard for juridical authority he is up against, states "I'm going to take these men back with me or kill them where they stand." Maddox is under no illusion about the outcome of the trial if and when it does take place. He knows the leader of the cowboys, Bronson (Lee J. Cobb,) is a wealthy cattle baron and will be able to "buy the circuit judge cheap." But he is committed to his duty. Maddox is his duty: the guardian of the law. We find this very hard to accept and understand today in our era of feel good humanism which seeks to muddy everything in the waters of "moral ambiguity." Why can't he compromise? That is exactly what the cowboys who killed the old man want, a compromise, i.e. Read more ›
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
Superb acting, superb directing, superb dialogue. . . feel free to read my rave of the version with the same cover, ASIN 079283853X. The movie is so good, I had to give it 5 stars even with what I'm about to write.
This "widescreen" version is an incredibly blatant ripoff. All they did was chop off the top and bottom of the already reduced TV image. Let me stress: YOU GET NOTHING EXTRA ON THIS VIDEO, AND YOU LOSE LOTS! It's such a shame because this movie deserves widescreen release. So in the meantime, buy 079283853X :-)!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Great Film - Sound Not So Good July 1 2004
Format:DVD
I was very disapointed with this film "LAWMAN" and not because of the film itself, but because of the sound quality of this DVD. The sound was very flat, high pitched and with no depth to the sound at all and that's sad because this is a great film in itself. This is a great Western with an excellent cast, especially the great character actor William C. Watson as Choctaw Lee, the gunfighter. Richard Jordon as Crow was also great. You just don't see great films like this anymore, basically because you don't have actors like this anymore, Burt Lancaster, Lee J. Cobb, Albert Salmi, etc. If someone else purchased this DVD and the sound is great, please let me know as maybe I received a defected DVD. I hope the DVD was defected as I would love to enjoy this film once more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The real deal Nov. 24 2003
By M. Dog
Format:DVD
Burt Lancaster plays a marshall that is going to take some men in for trail or kill them. That is the beginning and the end of the discussion.
This is a fascinating film. What makes it so is the reaction everyone has to such an unbending, uncompromising man. The townspeople are not behind Lancaster because the men he wants to take in all work for a very important town leader that has done much to support and help the town grow. The town boss, played with complexity by Lee J. Cobb, admits his men did wrong, but wants to "negotiate" a kind of deal with Lancaster.
Lancaster is not a negotiator. He is a killer with a star on his chest.
This is the other interesting aspect of this film: as the Lancaster character tells an idealistic cowboy, "a lawman is a man-killer. That is his business."
All in all, a tough, lean Western with an unusually hard edge. Lancaster's ice-blue eyes dominate the film, with great performances throughout by, notably, Lee J. Cobb, Robert Ryan (as an aging gunfighter looking for an easy slide), and Robert Duvall. The writing is excellent, also, with many memorable lines that say a lot with few words.
A little-known Western but, in my opinion, one that wouldn't be out of place in any discussion of the all time greats of the genre.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of my top 5 all time favorite Westerns May 3 2003
By A Customer
Format:DVD
The plotline is simple. Jarrod Maddox (Burt Lancaster), is an aging lawman, still extremely capable, who arrives in town and gives notice that the men involved in a killing will return with him for trial "or I'll kill them where they stand".
What unfolds is truly interesting, given depth by the rich characterizations of Lee J. Cobb, Robert Ryan (two exceptional supporting actors), Albert Salmi, Joseph Wiseman, Sheree North and others (look for Robert Duvall in a pre-Godfather role, as well as Ralph Waite, pre-Waltons) and a story that does not move in a conventional direction.
More than once I have read reviews of this film that criticize its ending. I strongly disagree with this assessement. I think that the ending completes the drama fittingly. The ending is violent and disturbing, even dark, but this should lend itself toward reflection, not scorn.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Astoundingly Underrated--Brilliant, Complex--One Caution
First, the caution: the "widescreen" VHS version is a sham! It doesn't show you the actual original widescreen film, it simply chops off the top and bottom of the... Read more
Published on July 14 2004 by Matthew Drummy
4.0 out of 5 stars lawman fronteir terminator...?
burt lancaster as a well focussed no non- sense marshal
reminded me of the sci fi movie terminator with a western flair. Read more
Published on Dec 11 2002 by schackdaddy.com
5.0 out of 5 stars Lawman
What are the adjectives that describe Burt Lancaster's character in this western. Tough, steeley, deadly, honest, dedicated and incorruptable come to mind. Read more
Published on July 6 2002 by Dennis C. Clements
5.0 out of 5 stars Western Justice!!!!!
This is a great violent western. Lancaster proves he
can step up and be just as tough as Eastwood and Wayne.
The action is superb. Western fans-Don't miss this one!
Published on June 5 2002 by Undertaker
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking western
Burt Lancaster is the epitome of TOUGH as the unyielding paragon of western justice, Marshall Jered Maddox. Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2002 by Cory D. Slipman
4.0 out of 5 stars A really good western; but one caution
This movie remains one of my favorite westerns and Burt Lancaster is excellent as the lawman who won't be bought off or scared off. The entire cast is excellent with Lee J. Read more
Published on Nov. 12 2001 by fionnmaccumhal
4.0 out of 5 stars Lancaster still has it...
In this 1971 film, Lancaster is a bit past his prime. However, he still has the marvelous acting qualities that make his work stand out. Read more
Published on Oct. 16 2001 by Mark Savary
5.0 out of 5 stars One man who doesn't bow to people who break the law
One of the most underappreciated westerns ever made, LAWMAN stars Burt Lancaster as a hard-bitten, taciturn lawman from the town of Bannock who rides seemingly for a hundred miles... Read more
Published on July 12 2001 by Erik North
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