This film tells a story in a rather indirect way. From the prologue, which tells us about a comely and virtuous woman who marries a violent and angry man, we don't quite know where we are.
Then we see a gruesome attack of a prostitute and some rather unexpected summary justice from Little Bill (Gene Hackman). From this point onwards, the story, and the characters, tilt one way and the other. You like Little Bill, but he takes things too far. You like the Eastwood character, but you can't entirely forgive him, and you can see him sliding downwards.
The action has lingered with me for several days. What does this film have to say about hellraisers? What am I to make of the amazing denouement? Is there any justice in the ending?
Looking back there are scenes that you remember, like the mythical gunslinger missing a simple target over and over again, or Little Bill and his hopeless roof-building. The details ornament the story in delightful ways.
It's an absorbing film which confronts you with much complexity. Should law enforcers make examples of people? Do light punishments cause greater troubles? How do mythologies influence our actions? This is a very special film.