Following a bank robbery in late-1800s Arizona, Deputy Marshal Jim Burke (Wayne Morris) is tracking four suspects. He manages to capture one, Manuel Jackson (Rick Vallin), but Manuel refuses to give up the names of his conspirators.
A few years later, Manuel escapes from prison, and Burke must follow his trail again. When Burke finds Manuel, a shoot-out takes place, fatally injuring the criminal. Before he dies, Manuel decides to give Burke the names… if Burke will promise to protect his sister, Raquel (Virginia Grey).
But Raquel may not need Burke’s protection. This frontier gal has a plan of her own, to steal all of the gang’s loot from the bank robbery.
The Fighting Lawman was directed by Thomas Carr.
Elements of the crime film and the legal procedural pepper The Fighting Lawman, blending decently with its more traditional Western sensibilities.
Moving along at a fine, steady pace, the film is a watchable and generally quite enjoyable B-movie. The shootouts and action sequences are well-executed, and the scenery is very nice, too.
But watchable is just that: watchable. Not great. Not memorable. The Fighting Lawman offers a tale of greed, good, and evil, but in a wholly usual and under-developed fashion. The script could use some beefing up, especially in the way of character growth.
Let’s take Virginia Grey’s role, for example. She does have a fairly prominent role for a woman in a midcentury Western, and she does well in it. She could have, however, made for a fascinating center of the film, offering a character study of a woman hardened by the harsh environment in which she lives.
If you’re simply a fan of Westerns however they come and want to spend a little over an hour with a lesser-known one, The Fighting Lawman is worth a watch. If you’re looking for a stand-out B-picture or high-stress, high-suspense battles between the law its enemies, there are dozens of better films to seek out.