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.