It's crazy the way some films get labeled "brilliant" while others get ignored just because of bad timing or poor studio backing or any # of things. I'm not a fan of Westerns. I don't consider this a Western. I consider it a wonderfully written, directed, and acted work of art. Gerald Wilson's script, and its interpretation by the three leads, is so skillful that it functions almost as a poem on the themes of "man," "animal," "law," and euphemism. Micheal Winner's direction is beyond good. Every cut--early on he uses many overlays, then as the film builds he uses jarring smash cuts--is breathtaking in its thoughtfulness and thematic effect. And he knows when to lay off the music. An eerily quiet early showdown scene with Burt Lancaster, Albert Salmi, and Richard Jordan (with Robert Ryan in the background) is probably the most creative and effective such scene I've ever witnessed, Leone notwithstanding. Then there's the acting. Lancaster is THE great underrated American actor, and it's because so many of his best performances came after he'd turned 50. I truly think this is his best. He says so much with his eyes, and especially with a tiny flutter or break in his voice. The range he achieves within this supposedly rigid character is phenomenal. From the knockout first scene between him and Ryan, to the touching scenes between him and Sheree North--you'll never see a sadder face than his when North gets out of the bed--to the scene by the river with Jordan, he creates a full character simply by being a great actor. No gimmicks or wackiness. He just out-acts anyone on the screen today. Ryan equals Burt's performance. This is the best of the ten or so Ryan performances I've seen. Like Lancaster as he aged, Ryan is unafraid to play an aging, weakening character. Seeing him come to life briefly when he takes on a "Bronson man" is thrilling. Lee J. Cobb has less to do but does a heck of a lot with it. The supporting actors are, to a person, superb. But special kudos must go to Richard Jordan. This is a film that challenges the macho stereotype and finds it wanting. Lancaster's character offers a complex alternative. An absolute must-see. Tremendous script, unparalleled acting, superb directing. Oh, and the locations are just breathtaking. It's criminal that there's no true widescreen of Lawman available. Anyway, SEE IT.
Adventure / Western
Adventure / Western
A lawman from Bannock arrives in Sabbath to arrest all the cattlemen whose wild celebration the year before resulted in the accidental death of an old man.
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June 8, 2019