The setting is Montana ranch country following World War II. J.W. Ewing, a long time cattle baron in the area, wants to take over the property of his neighbor Ella Conners. She's a hard working, feisty rancher who's inherited the land from he father. Ewing has connections at the bank and eagerly awaits the foreclosure on her mortgage. Meanwhile, he hires an assassin to murder Frank Athearn who has purchased a piece of Ella's spread. It's a bad move which throws this World War II veteran together with Ella. Along with Dodger, her seasoned cowhand, they labor doubly hard to bring their cattle to market and outwit Ewing.
Comes a Horseman is a slowly paced film that is designed to put us in sync with the rhythms of the West. The characters are as moody as the weather and often as taciturn as the mountains surrounding them. Jane Fonda's acting is quietly effective, James Caan is a good foil to her; Jason Roberts carries off his task as the film's villain. But these performances are all overshadowed by Richard Farnsworth's portrait of Dodger. He is the archetypal cowboy crafty, self-reliant, and industrious. This old man has a heart as big as the land he loves. And when he dies, the light seems to go out of the film.
Alan Pakula's direction is tight and Gordon Willis contributes his usual brand of mesmerizing cinematography. Even with a rather weak storyline and an overdone ending, Comes a Horseman sticks in the mind as a better-than-average western.