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'Justified': Meh

Timothy Olyphant, left, stars as Deputy U.S. Marshal

Timothy Olyphant, left, stars as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in the F/X series "Justified." Photo Credit: FX

One criticizes anything with the name "Elmore Leonard" attached with some caution. It's almost like trashing Hemingway, or Don DeLillo - the pastime of fools or errant knaves.


  That said, your's truly thought "Justified" was only OK.

  Not bad at all.

  But not great.

  Greatness was expected.

  Instead, we get a well-produced and reasonably well-acted TV cop show that doesn't seem to have much of anything original or compelling to say. 

  Tim Olyphant's character, Raylan Givens, feels like/is a classic western type - the good guy who could have easily become a bad guy; his counterpart is just as classic - the bad guy who could have become a good guy (like Russell Crowe's Ben Wade in "3:10 to Yuma,' based on the famous early Leonard story.)

  This is a wonderful character type in American fiction and there have been many glorious variations on this classic theme. 

  I'm just not sure Olyphant's Givens is offering anything new or unique. That could change in time: He's an excellent actor, and this show has excellent creds, so maybe in time. Maybe.

  My review follows these clips - the first from the Delmore Daves/Glenn Ford 1957 "3:10;" for some reason, Ford's Wade kinda reminds me of Givens; second from "Justified:" 







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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