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.