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Lawman

Burt Lancaster , Robert Ryan , Michael Winner    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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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Lancaster still has it... Oct. 16 2001
Format:DVD
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.
The direction, on the other hand, his a bit hit and miss for me. While the mood and atmosphere created by Winner are almost perfect, his "Bad 70s TV Action-Zoom Cam" gets in the way, with the camera zipping everywhere but where it ought to be. Much of this film called for more subtle camera motion, and the abuse of the zoom lens effect permanently marks the film as a product of its time.
On the plus side, the aging gunfighters depicted by Lancaster, Cobb, and Ryan, the feeling of changing times, and the sense of a closing chapter in the history of the West are all spot on. It called to mind moments in "The Magnificent Seven" or another Lancaster film, "The Professionals", in which the day of the gunfighter has all but ended, leaving the few remaining with a stuggle to find their place.
Ryan and Cobb are equally good here, but Ryan probably gets the edge. His character shows the gunfighter coming to terms with modern times by giving in and becoming part of them. Cobb depicts the will to change if only events would allow it. Lancaster is the embodiment of justice in the Old West, and change is resisted.
Familliar faces pop up here and there, with Ralph Waite (Pa on "The Waltons") and John Hillerman (Higgins of "Magnum, PI") both in minor supporting roles. Waite plays one of the bad guys (in muttonchops!), while Hillerman is a citizen in the background. Hillerman's western accent is British instead, which is probably why he got only two lines in this one.
A good, solid western, set in a stark evaporating frontier town just before 1900, the film is a keeper.
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Format:VHS Tape
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 to the town of Sabbath to take in a group of cowboys who, in a drunken shooting spree, had shot up his town and killed an old man.
But his appearance in Sabbath causes considerable hostility among the townsfolk, because they owe their livelihoods to that same bunch, led by Lee J. Cobb, and are unwilling to give it up. Lancaster, unsurprisingly, is unmoved. Therein hangs this solid, almost psychological, sagebrush saga.
Lancaster, as usual, is brilliant in his role of an efficient, cold-blooded lawman, and Cobb is equally special as the leader of the group of cowboys being sought. This is not your typical good guys/bad guys saga: what happened in Bannock was a tragic accident, and Lancaster may be pushing his authority a bit too far. Robert Ryan, always one of the better and more overlooked actors in Hollywood, gives one of his greatest performances as Sabbath's aging, pragmatic marshal.
Probably Michael Winner's best film as a director, LAWMAN was shot on location in central Mexico and has some stark photography by British cameraman Robert Paynter, giving it a look not out of place in a Sam Peckinpah or Sergio Leone film. It is violent in places, but it makes for very good viewing, especially for those who appreciate westerns of this type.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Film--BUT DON'T BUY THIS VERSION! FAKE WIDESCREEN!
Superb acting, superb directing, superb dialogue. . . feel free to read my rave of the version with the same cover, ASIN 079283853X. Read more
Published on July 15 2004 by Matthew Drummy
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
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Film - Sound Not So Good
I was very disapointed with this film "LAWMAN" and not because of the film itself, but because of the sound quality of this DVD. Read more
Published on July 1 2004 by Peter Skurka
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my top 5 all time favorite Westerns
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... Read more
Published on May 3 2003
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 5 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 4 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
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