I keep seeing more and more movies I want to write something about, so I'd better get something down before the queue gets any longer.
Like a classic western, you know how the story is going to go but it is so well told it's a pleasure to see it unfold, even if it nods directly to Godfather in a couple of scenes. It stars Irish actor Ray Stevenson who is very good as Green and he is supported by a stunning list of familiar crime movie and TV badasses including Val Kilmer, Vincent D'Onofrio, Tony LoBianco, Christopher Walken, Vinnie Jones, Robert Davi, and Stephen R. Schrripa AKA Bobby Bacala from The Sopranos. When Paul Sorvino shows up late in the film playing Mafia don "Fat Tony" Salerno, it feels inevitable, not a surprise.
The movie is classic "tough guy" entertainment yet they couldn't find room for it in the multiplexes among all the CGI animated features, video game-derived fantasys and lunkheaded fratboy comedies around. Sad, just sad.
It's the sort of tragic film where everybody knowingly acts out of duty or pride rather than common sense. The marshall knows that when he brings the men back they'll just probably pay a fine rather than be charged with murder, yet he goes after them all the same. The rancher knows he can make the entire thing go away with some apologies and money but some of his men insist on gunning for the marshall and wind up dead, meaning he now feels obligated to go after him.
The film shows its Euro influences in details like the realistic bloody shootings and having most of the local citizens including the mayor and the local marshall, played by Robert Ryan, spending their evenings at the town brothel where the women look older and plainer than the usual run of Western movie prostitutes. Lancaster and Ryan are great as always as are supporting players like Sheree North, Robert Duvall and Richard Jordan but the best work comes from Lee J. Cobb, who constantly plays the rancher as a man tired of violence and death, not the blustery villain you might expect. Michael Winner directed this with maybe too many zoom shots but he gets the feeling of the story right. I'm at a loss at to why he is so largely considered a hack.
The story drags a bit in the third act which feels like an epilogue to the preceding action designed to leave the audience with a somewhat happy ending and spends far too much time on the soppy characters of the couple's daughter and her pop-eyed cadet suitors but when Olivier and McEwan are snarling at each other, it is wonderful fun.