The Violent Men does indeed live up to that name throughout the picture, but it still ends up being pretty standard fare as far as western films are concerned, with Glenn Ford helming an all-star cast as a man who simply wanted to sell his ranch and move away and now needs to teach his neighbour the error of his ways after an unnecessary altercation.
Also starring the incomparable Edward G. Robinson as the big bad in the movie, he plays a rival rancher that not so much as needs the Parrish farm as wants it so that he would become the largest ranch in the area, not to mention having enough room for his cattle to graze. So it is that he squares off not only against Ford’s character John Parrish, but discovers that there are threats at home as well, one being his brother as played by Brian Keith and another in his very deceitful wife as portrayed by the one and only Barbara Stanwyck and only then when it is far too late. Robinson and Ford are as great and as dependable as they always are, especially given the familiar material that they are given to play with and Keith is solid as the grimy brother who looks as though he would rather stab someone in the back than make a deal with them. Stanwyck is given little time on the screen, at least in comparison to some of the other actors, but when she is, she takes the role and runs with it creating a very cold and conniving woman, the kind that every man seems to want until they find themselves on the end of her machinations.
The action is non-stop after a point and one cannot say that the film does not entertain for once it gets going, it is truly exciting and grabs the audience immediately. Making this Rudolph Maté-helmed picture even better is the fantastic use of Cinemascope which takes all the local scenery in and makes it bigger and bolder, filling the screen with both actor and landscape to great effect. It is with this added feature, that combined with the talent starring within, makes this average story far better than it might have been otherwise, but it is the war that rages between the two ranchers that makes it all an attraction that is not to be missed.
Oftentimes, a good western is one where the audience will be made to root for the underdog and that is done so here. Suffice it to say, where Ford’s character will not even hold a gun at first, it is not because he is weak as some might call him or as viewers may initially think, but out of strength and when he finally does pick up arms, those who stand against him have no idea what they are in for. As far as western films go, the makers of the picture might have played it a little safe with the material, but it manages to rise up and captivate its audience as a great action movie and when things really get going, there is nothing to do but sit back and enjoy as The Violent Men lives earns its moniker.
4 out of 5