Although it has some superficial similarities to such better "character" Westerns as Unforgiven and Shane, The Lonely Man is at best an average entry into this subgenre. Credit is due to Lonely for trying to be something other than a "shoot 'em up," but its good intentions don't disguise the fact that Lonely ultimately is a meandering, unfocused study of characters that don't have the depth to deserve such study. The melodrama far outweighs the genuine drama, and there's an air of mawkishness that permeates the entire film. To make matters worse, the screenplay tends to build to a number of false climaxes -- moments that seem as if they're going to move things forward but end of petering out instead. Lonely does have a very solid cast, with the very capable Jack Palance and Anthony Perkins in the leads. But Palance isn't given enough to work with, and Perkins can't make the character anything but petulant and whiny. The supporting cast is equally well qualified, with the likes of Neville Brand, Elisha Cook Jr., and Lee Van Cleef; if they come off somewhat better than the leads, it's because they aren't being asked to carry the film on such thin material. The Lonely Man's biggest asset is its stunning Lionel Lindon cinematography, a moody, beautiful black-and-white celebration of the landscape and the people who inhabit it.
by Craig Butler review