OscarÂ(r) winner* Burt Lancaster (Birdman of Alcatraz, From Here to Eternity)gives a powerhouse performance as an aging Mexican-American lawman who erupts into a one-man army in this bold saga of retribution and redemption. Valdez Is Coming boldly recreates America's Western frontiera place where life was sometimes cheap...but honor was always priceless. When it comes to keeping the peace, former frontier sheriff Bob Valdez has always been the voice of reason in a sea of chaos. But Frank Tanner (Jon Cypher) is a very different sort of man: greedy, impulsive and rotten to the core. So when Tanner provokes a shootout that results in the death of an innocent man, Valdez orders him to provide financial support for the widow. But when Tanner not only refuses but also laughs in his face, Valdez dusts off his old uniform, straps on his guns and vows toexact justice and vengeance at any cost.
There's nothing like the laconic, confident ease of Burt Lancaster in his gray years, even in the unlikely role of an easy-going Mexican. Bob Valdez is a deputy sheriff in an American frontier town bubbling over in racism. Scapegoated by the community for the death of an innocent victim of a trigger- happy posse and crucified, literally, by the sadistic gunrunner (Jon Cypher) responsible for the tragedy, the quiet lawman takes up arms in a bloody campaign that begins with the mantra: "Tell him Valdez is coming."
Adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel, the script is hardly subtle or original and it never makes the gaping chasm between the search for justice and the bloody reign of terror work in any dramatic terms. It's a rather amorphous morality tale without a solid grounding, but it's dutifully violent, charged with righteous anger, and makes good use of the stark landscape (it was shot in Spain, giving it even more of the flavor of a spaghetti Western). It's a bit embarrassing how Hollywood puts the spotlight on racism by casting a white actor to play the wronged minority, but Lancaster creates a wonderful character in Valdez. With gentle eyes and a tired smile behind a face covered in brown Hollywood makeup, he brings sure-footed authority and calm ruthlessness to a mission of justice by a man wronged one too many times. --Sean Axmaker