Sunday, May 9, 2010


You would think that with Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and Lee J. Cobb as the main characters, Lawman would be a great movie. Unfortunately, you'd think wrong. Not even supporting performances by John McGiver (August Binford in A Fistful of Diamonds and Doc Snively in Witness to a Lynching), J.D. Cannon (Harry Briscoe in five episodes), and Sheree North (Bess Tapscott in The Men That Corrupted Hadleyburg), all of whom are instantly recognizable, can salvage this 1971 film.

Here's the plot, which makes a lot more sense reading it than watching it unfold on the screen: A sheriff, Lancaster's character, from one town goes to another to arrest a group of ranchers, led by Cobb's character, who accidentally killed an old man during a night of drunken revelry in the sheriff's town. Naturally the men do not cooperate and go peacefully back to stand trial.

The rest of Lawman is about what happens when the sheriff goes after the men. Along the way, there are various incidents involving the ASJ guest stars and other actors. It is difficult to keep track of everyone and I was unable to develop any interest in any of the characters.

Lawman seems like a movie composed of scenes strung together without any purpose or reason; it is disjointed and the plot did not hold my attention through its 99 minutes. The music, composed by Jerry Fielding--so I had hopes it would be good but even here I was let down--is intrusive and annoying. There are some weird scenes interspersed throughout, such as two coyotes eating a dead horse. The love scene between Lancaster and North is not believable. The climax, a showdown on Main Street, is violent and although part of it is unexpected, it still is ultimately unsatisfying.

The best part of Lawman is the fact that the church in town looks almost exactly like the one in ASJ. There are no DVD bonus features but that was fine with me as I had no interest in spending any more time than necessary on this movie.