Marc reviews FX's "Justified" 

Wow. Let me just say that again: Wow.

I just finished watching episodes 1, 2 and 4 of Justified, and I'm blown away. This show, based around U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, an Elmore Leonard-created character, manages to make the cop genre feel fresh again.

Yes, Givens and company always get their man. But never in the ways you'd suspect - and not always in ways they like. Yes, Givens (played with perfect swagger by Timothy Olyphant) manages to escape peril week after week. But it's by using brains and cool, not by some absurd plot device. Yes, he's surrounded by the usual array of supporting players. But their support isn't limited to wisecracks and none of them is integral to every case. And yes, while there is an inordinate amount of crime, it's not always in the same general location.

The premise for Justified is that Givens, while working in Miami, shot a gun-runner in public view. He said the shooting was justified, but the Marshals Service transfers him to eastern Kentucky, the place he grew up.

Back home, he reconnects with some old friends, ex-lovers and family members. And since he seems to know everyone, and everyone knows him, that makes doing his job more complicated than it might be otherwise.

The writing here - some of it by Graham Yost, the creator of the terrific, short-lived NBC series Boomtown - is stellar. The stories are gripping and the chatter when someone's kidnapped or there's a standoff is not only creative but often borders on funny. Givens would rather talk criminals into giving up than use his gun. And while that's sometimes detrimental to his career, it makes for great theater.

Olyphant commands the screen with pure Eastwood-esque calm and confidence. He's unflappable, whether he's negotiating a surrender or having his gun and badge taken by a rifle-wielding escaped convict. (He also has the benefit of knowing that, as the star of the show, he won't be killed. But that's the case in every action series or movie.)

His supporting cast includes, most notably, Walton Goggins, one of the stars of The Shield, the previous occupant of this timeslot on FX. Goggins is now Boyd Crowder, a former coal-mining colleague of Givens' who's turned into a crazed neo-Nazi. In one of the show's great moments, Crowder tells Givens of the need to eliminate the Jews, who are mongrelizing the world. Givens' dry retort: "Boyd, you know any Jews?"

It's moments like that and actors like these that make Justified an absolute must-watch.

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Marc D. Allan

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