‘Lawman’ Movie Review

March 21, 2021

What is the Law? Frédéric Bastiat proclaimed it to be “organized justice”. And if justice, as reasoned, is the preservation of righteous action, then the Law is intended to organize society to maintain righteous conduct between individuals in society. The thought that no ruler is above the law is a recent phenomenon; that all are created equal is germane to this civilized progress. Indeed, then, it is no wonder that what is presupposed for human life is to be truthful and honest and respectable before the public interest. Not to harm it, but to ameliorate it.


This is the theory. But in practice, the ability to dictate the metabolism of others leads to positions in society which are susceptible to arbitrary whims. The culprits of injustice are especially of those who have no sense of honor before, like the big boss Bronson in the film. He, while toiling honestly for 30 years to achieve a homestead in the Wild West, is confronted with his loyalty to the crew who helped bootstrap his success – perhaps to a fault. It is here where the balance between righteous action is confronted between the objective right and the subjective desire. For the objective is universal and necessary to all subjects.


Lawman brilliantly depicts a historically authentic form, which is sufficient reason for watching this neglected Western. We see that in the honest striving of human life, all men submit to Aristotle’s concept of “natural justice”. Bearing arms is a necessity of human survival in the late 19th century Western, yet it is marvelous to see how peaceful the citizenry are despite the errant bloodshed which requires the involvement of a Lawman to investigate the shooting death of a bar patron. They don’t want him in their town, which is dependent on the success of the wealthy Bronson ranch. It doesn’t matter – the Law understands the job is dirty and unappreciated. That someone must be the backstop to the mad inhuman race, that this is a duty volunteered for its commitment to piety in civilized life – this is the exclamation of being human! That man has reason to know justice, to know what is the true path, and what is obviously contradicting it. To attempt to Lie to Nature is folly.


And perhaps this is the primal motivation of the Lawman as he relentlessly pursues the ranch hands which cause violent disturbance to the point of escalating the tension – of challenging the Law itself. To man he is a necessarily evil. But to Nature, he is a blessing; not to care about the whims of such stained consciences, She celebrates a man who cannot be purchased. Harlots and booze come too easy. The man with a contempt for convenience is a perfectionist who knows man can always become more perfect. And it is his vocation to maintain man’s balance so that he may freely progress away from the simian toward the immortal spirit.


But notice, this is out of the hands of magistrates. The film is bold to remind the audience that judges are human beings too. Humans with manifestations that are all too satisfied with a life of convenience afford to civil authority. That relaxed leisure is necessary for a civilization to function, only to be betrayed, grants the American spirit its irredeemable nobility. That, the Wild West was conquered tooth-and-nail with the primal knowledge that the only real law men obey is the natural one. Veneers of virtue are naturally see-through.


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