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Elmore Leonard story makes justifiable TV

Timothy Olyphant stars as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan

Timothy Olyphant stars as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in the FX series "Justified." Olyphant is nominated for lead actor in a drama series. Credit: FX

Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant, "Deadwood") is a lawman in modern-day Miami.

He's accessorized with four-day-old stubble and a Stetson, and partial to washing down Cheerios with Jim Beam. Givens is a great believer in 19th century frontier-style justice. He gives a thug 24 hours to get out of Dodge (Miami). The punk decides Givens is bluffing and pulls a gun. Givens draws his own piece, quickly ending the unpleasant business.

After the shooting, Givens is shipped back to his home state of Kentucky until the political heat dies down. But there's a lot of history back home, including a felonious father (Raymond Barry); an old friend (Walton Goggins, "The Shield") who has morphed into an especially violent bank robber/skinhead commando/church firebomber; and a former wife (Natalie Zea).

Of course, Givens believes his actions are always "justified."


Givens comes from a long line of gunslingers with skeletons in their closets and smoldering anger in their hearts. Someone has always done 'em wrong. He's sort of like Gary Cooper or James Coburn or Lee Van Cleef. Did they get mad? No! They got even! They air-conditioned the bad guys, tipped their hats to the pretty gals and rode off into the sunset.

Problem is, Givens doesn't seem remotely tortured, or angry, or even annoyed. He just seems bemused. It's hard to tell what is going on behind that handsome stubbled exterior, although you begin to suspect nothing much is.


Likewise, you suspect nothing much is going on with "Justified," filled with overripe and familiar TV tropes. Watch for any length of time and you may - as I did - have the eerie if not unpleasant feeling that you've been teleported to a decent network cop show from the 1970s.



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