Alan Pakula’s Comes a Horseman is so lethargic not even Jane Fonda, James Caan and Jason Robards can bring excitement to this artific- ially dramatic story of a stubborn rancher who won’t surrender to the local land baron.
The real star of the film doesn’t get billing. It’s a stretch of verdant land in Colorado known as the Wet Mountain Valley. Gordon Willis photographs this location with so much love and awe that talk by oil explorers about ripping it up is both moving and repulsive.
Robards’ part is the most troublesome. He’s the land baron who wants both Fonda and Caan to sell their parcels to complete his empire. Every one of Robards’ lines is shaded by a black hat. He is Evil in the most convenient way.
Caan, also an independent rancher who recently returned from serving in World War II, teams up with Fonda after his partner is killed (presumably on orders from Robards). When Fonda realizes what an accomplished cowboy Caan is and how much she needs him their relationship warms.
The only really good part in the film is Richard Farnsworth’s Dodger, Fonda’s aging hand. He’s an altogether sympathetic character, close to the land and one of the few who really understands Fonda.
1978: Nomination: Best Supp. Actress (Richard Farnsworth)