Men in cowboy hats usually elicit large groans, eye rolls and at least one offensive redneck joke. It doesn’t help that the wearer usually completes the outfit with a coordinating, obnoxious belt buckle, a dirty mullet and boots with spurs.
We tend to think stereotypical country singer, not swagger-filled lawman.
Cable powerhouse FX’s newest drama “Justified” breaks all preconceived notions associated with the cowboy hat, evoking the energy of a John Wayne-classic western and a gritty cop drama, with the quirky yet troubled character fixings found in the best shows on television.
Timothy Olyphant stars as cowboy hat-wearing, sharp-shooting Raylan Givens, who looks like Josh Duhamel with more charming ruggedness and infinitely better acting abilities. He has stolen scenes in everything he’s been a part of, even cheesy, oversexed teen comedies like “The Girl Next Door.” The fact that he’s been given such an intense vehicle for his talent is a gift for TV lovers everywhere.
“Justified” follows Raylan, a U.S. Marshal, as he is reluctantly relocated from Miami to his home state of Kentucky. He’s not constantly surrounded by members of his past, though the scent of his upbringing certainly lingers in every episode.
From what’s been shown in the first three episodes, the little we know about Raylan’s past comes from the run-ins with his ex-wife, an old friend turned white supremacist and cryptic mentions of his criminal father.
Raylan is much darker than a standard lead and the most compelling part of “Justified,” besides the consistently stimulating violence that has become a show staple, is finding out just who Raylan is and what makes him tick. On the surface, he seems like a cool guy, one that guys would want to have a beer with and girls would want to be with, even if it would mean committing a felony.
Underneath his smooth and collected exterior, though, is a conflicted, trigger-happy man who continually tiptoes on the line between being a hero who saves the day and the scum who ruins it.
Though Raylan claims the only reason he wears the cowboy hat is that it fits, part of it seems to be his gun-slinging skills that rival those of any western hero.
In episode three, “Fixer,” one bad guy considers what it would be like to participate in an old-fashioned standoff with Raylan, thinking he would be able to trump the lawman in a draw.
As a viewer, you can’t help but feel for the guy, knowing all the practice in the world wouldn’t prepare him for the battle.
The cast around Olyphant is just as intriguing, and the guest stars each week are captivatingly underrated character actors who shine in playing the filth Raylan has to deal with. The best of the worst is Boyd Crowder, the aforementioned Nazi lover, played by Walter Groggins, who makes someone so sleazy and revolting still affable and appealing.
Based off a short story from Elmore Leonard, the script shines with subdued wit, subtle sexuality and heightened violence. Its inventive look into the life of the criminal justice system, an idea so played out in television, makes “Justified” an easy pick to enter any TV viewing rotation.