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Lancaster plays 'Maddox' the Lawman set on bringing the men to trial. 'Cotten Ryan' played by Robert Ryan is excellent as the 'bought' town Sheriff, himself a Lawman of some reput who has had enough 'gun play' and opted for the quite life.
In this film you have a range of cowboy types, the young kid, the rough and ready hired hands, the ranch owner and his hard headed brother 'Harv'.
The gun play at the end of this film is the most intense confrontion ever filmed, you feel each characters emotions as if they were your own.
This is a film which deserves more acclaim.
Burt Lancaster plays Marshal Jared Maddox. Maddox is an unforgiving, hard as nails man that does not compromise. He sees everything in black and white. The law is to upheald and justice served at all costs. When a group of drunken cowboys shoot up his town returning from a cattle drive when he is out on the trail a man dies. The group doing the shooting was just "having fun" and was not intent on hurting anyone but still Maddox sees that a man has died and justice must be served.
He sets out in pursuit of the group. He finds them in another town and finds that the leader of the cattle drive actually owns the town. He must fact the town and the cowboys on his own and he does not shrink of the task. The local marshall, a former gunfighter, knows the kind of man he is looking at when he looks at Maddox. He tries to explain to everyone that this is an uncompromising man, a man that is harder than the land and harder than the times. But no one will listen.
One by one the cowboys fall as they try to face Maddox town until the final scene where four of them ride into town to set things right.
I had never pictured Burt Lancaster playing a hard driven, hard hearted character like this. I was very pleased with this movie. If you like westerns you will absolutely love this movie. If you like classics you should enjoy this movie. If you like well defined characters in your movies you will like this movie. In short, an outstanding movie.