Valdez Is Coming (1971)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Revisionist Western  |   Release Date - Apr 9, 1971 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Craig Butler

Labelled by many as a "revenge Western," Valdez is Coming is actually something a little different. It's true that Burt Lancaster's character doggedly pursues Jon Cypher's villain in order to extract payment, but Lancaster is really seeking justice, not revenge. Were it the former, he would singlemindedly and cold-bloodedly dispose of anything that stands in his way; here, he fights when it is demanded but he also tries to avoid this, and the payment he seeks is not the man's life but the fulfillment of a commitment. It's this difference that sets Valdez slightly above many other blood-soaked Westerns of the time and that gives the film a special flavor. Valdez is also extremely fortunate to have Lancaster on hand. The star brings with him an incredible persona, a dynamic personality that screams both integrity and danger; Lancaster is an honorable man but one that will be nobody's fool, and these qualities shine through in his portrayal. He's also a deft actor, capable of finding some interesting nuances in the character that add layers to the film. But not all of the elements in the film are on the star's level. The script, while it benefits from the integrity of the lead character, makes use of too many Western clich├ęs and the contemporary racial concerns don't quite fit; they feel forced on in some places. More damagingly, Edwin Sherin's direction is flaccid. He composes some beautiful pictures and is clearly concerned with the performances of his cast, but his pacing is poor and the film isn't cinematic enough. Overall, the pros outweigh the cons in Valdez, but the cons do keep it from being an outstanding film.