If nothing else, Lawman proves that there is such a thing as a script so good that not even Michael Winner could screw it up, although having an excellent cast doesn't hurt. Burt Lancaster is the lawman of the title, determined to bring in several cattlemen (Robert Duvall among them) only to find that the local boss Lee J. Cobb owns the town and its once famous, now cowardly world-weary sheriff Robert Ryan, who all but steals the film. Curiously, Ryan far preferred this film to The Wild Bunch, though that may be down to Winner's deference to his stars compared with the thoroughly miserable time he had working with Peckinpah (there's another Peckinpah connection in composer Jerry Fielding, who contributes a good, brooding score). Joseph Wiseman, Richard Jordan, Albert Salmi and Sheree North are also thrown into the mix, and surprisingly all of them have well defined characters in what becomes an increasingly complex morality play about the void between what's legal and what's practical as Lancaster begins to realize that his strict adherence to the letter of the law has left him with nothing else in his life.
At times Gerald Wilson's script is perhaps a tad overwritten - everyone gets their big scene explaining their worldview, with no-one truly bad, merely weak - but it's a forgivable weakness. Winner's not quite as overly reliant on crash zooms as usual, though his characteristic laziness does manifest itself in one scene that has characters ride up to Cobb's house in darkness and come into the room in daylight, but for someone like Winner that's almost verging on the competent by his standards. Be warned that the UK DVD release is slightly cut to remove an offending illegal horse fall.