Although western fans regard this as a classic of the genre, i've been reluctant to purchase it because I'm not a big fan of Burt Lancaster's acting; and Michael Winner - it's director - doesn't have a glowing reputation. What convinced me to give it a go was the presence of Robert Duvall and Lee J. Cobb in the cast. And I'm pleased that I did.
Bronson's (Cobb)cowboy outfit accidentally kills an innocent bystander in Maddox's (Lancaster) town during a drunken night of fooling around at the end of a cattle drive. His men then leave not realising that their gun play has caused a death. Maddox was out of town at the time, and when he returns he heads out to arrest the men to stand trial.
Hearing of Maddox's arrival and of the accident, Bronson is remorseful and offers to pay anything to put it right. Maddox, though, is a honourable law man and refuses, saying he's only interested in arresting the men responsible. When Cobb's right hand man is killed by Maddox when he's called out, he vows revenge.
Like a machine, Maddox continues to stick to his plan and the tension builds. However, I felt let down by the ending, or the near ending. I can't really go into detail because it will spoil the movie for the viewer, but I found it hard to believe. It seemed a bit rushed to come up with that scenario.
Picture quality suffers at times, but overall is good. I would have given it 3.5 stars, but Amazon won't allow me to do that. So I've given it 3 because 4 suggests a near masterpiece, which it isn't, although it is very good and if you enjoy westerns you'll find much to like in this film. There won't be too many surprises, but the traditional elements work and it's all carried off very well by a fine cast and, surprisingly, good, taut directing.