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Justified: The Complete First Season(TV) (2010)
After U.S Marshal Raylan Givens finds himself in hot water over the shooting of a Miami crime boss, he is reassigned to the last place on Earth he'd rather be; Harlan County, Kentucky, where he was born and raised. There he must deal with his ex-wife, criminal father, an old friend turned white supremacist, and the latter's former sister-in-law who quickly rekindles her attraction to Givens. Kentucky won't be the same now that the cowboy marshal is home.
For more about Justified: The Complete First Season and the Justified: The Complete First Season Blu-ray release, see Justified: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 17, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Directors: Jon Avnet, Peter Werner, Adam Arkin, Tony Goldwyn
Writers: Graham Yost, Elmore Leonard
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Jeremy Davies, Margo Martindale, Raymond J. Barry, Walton Goggins, Nick Searcy
» See full cast & crew
Justified: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review
Does Sony's latest justify a purchase?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 17, 2011
You got ice cold water running through your veins.
It's an old story that never, well, gets old. The law and the lawless meet in Justified, a show that pits a slick and smart lawman who's in his element whether playing country cool or city slick and faces off against a down home criminal element in the small little 'ville of Harlan, Kentucky. Justified is a modern-day Western, not modern-day only in the sense it was made recently, but in that it brings old-timey law and order to a world where values and landscapes and weapons have evolved since the days of the old west, but where a particular brand of justice remains the same. It's still a world where the law need outclass, outsmart, and yes, even outdraw the bad guys, and that's where the show's star shines. Timothy Olyphant (The Crazies) stars as U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, a Kentuckian by birth and a big-city lawman by trade who's forced to relocate to his home state after a deadly shooting in Miami. Givens gives 'em fair warning before pulling the trigger; an honest man who says he's gonna getcha and he does, Givens is a fast draw with a quick wit and a confidence to back it up. Givens is a modern day John Wayne, a lawman who puts his money where is mouth is and backs it up with a deadly aim and a know-how that makes him the perfect man, whether he likes it or not, to juggle the big-time trouble that can spew from a small-town setting.
The slick-dressing, hat-wearing, fast-drawing U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens (Olyphant) has been reassigned from Miami to his home state of Kentucky following what he dubs a "justified" shooting of an armed suspect-turned-assailant, all in broad daylight. The case makes national news, and it's decided that it's in the Marshalls's office and Givens's best interest alike if the Kentucky native were to "get out of Dodge" and take a lower-profile position in the small town of Harlan. The city slicker-turned-small-town marshall goes back home to deal with the small-time country bumpkins of his youth, but he soon learns that even rural America isn't immune to the ills of big-city crime. While he's not laying down the law and drawing his gun on those to whom he provides ample warning (he shoots to kill, he tells them), he's dealing with an old flame, Ava (Joelle Carter), who's just put a bullet through the chest of her abusive husband and is cleaning up the bloody mess in her dining room with Lysol when she's not trying to bed the handsome Marshall. Givens is also forced to contend with a feisty ex-wife (Natalie Zea) and his semi-estranged father (Raymond J. Barry). Givens's first course of action is to put an end to the local rabble rousing white supremacists, led by Raylan's old friend and mineshaft co-worker Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) who, like a bad penny, keeps turning up in the middle of trouble throughout Givens's tenure in Harlan.
Remember when Han shot first? It wasn't a "justified" killing, or at least it wasn't in the eyes of George Lucas, nor would it have been in the eyes of the U.S. Marshalls or Raylan Givens. But now that Greedo has yanked out his piece first -- and missed from across a table -- Han's killing of the bounty hunter can't be mistaken for cold-blooded murder. Justified opens with a scene similar to that most controversial Star Wars change-em-up; Givens sits across from a bad guy not at a cantina on Tatooine but rather in a posh Miami restaurant. Givens has offered the bad guy a quick and painless way out of town, but stubbon as he is, Mr. I'm-About-to-Die is just begging Givens to prove his worth as a fast draw and a man of his word. Once Death-Awaits-Me tries to get the best of Givens, the lawman wastes the bad guy with a Sig P226, he later tells Boyd when asked the make and model of the gun used in the infamous shooting. Though Givens appears to carry a Glock for the rest of the show (the Sig must've been taken in for evidence), the name stamped on the slide of this or any other gun matters not; the series's opening shooting -- as it should -- encompasses what Justified is all about. Raylan Givens is a man of principle, but he's not afraid to pull his piece and he's especially not timid about plugging a bad guy, given ample verbal warning and justification, of course. Givens backs up his mouth and swanky city/country hybrid talk and walk with brains and his unflinching knowledge of law and order and how to differentiate what he's learned in the classroom against what really works in the field. Givens -- derived from a character from the story "Fire in the Hole" by Elmore Leonard -- is an old-time lawman who is himself not immune to crossing the line between right and wrong but straddles it better than most and favors the right side. He's a character slicked up for the 21st century but who could no doubt blend into and work within the constructs of the old west way of justice. Justified may not be a perfect show, but its lead character is one of the best in the business.
Just as its main character would probably fit in any era and place, Justified as a series attempts to blend traditional and nontraditional elements, which gives the show a unique flavor and elevates it a notch against lesser law-and-order type series. The modern-day setting hasn't spoiled the down-home charm of Harlan and the surrounding areas; although the show ventures out of the small-town setting here and there -- notably to Los Angeles for one of the series's best episodes -- the rural Kentucky backdrop becomes a character itself, not necessarily because it does anything unique but because it's home to a world that's old-time traditional with modern-day troubles. Whether dealing with old-day racists who bend Christianity to suit their goals, the ever-present criminal rivalries, or the more modern trouble that comes with cooking meth out in the woods (it couldn't have been a small-town law and order show without a meth lab out in the woods, now could it?), the rural Kentucky locale is the perfect backdrop in which to plop a lawman who speaks both the language of the modern world and the tongue of the rural way of life. Even the series's catchy theme song is a hybrid that perfectly morphs Down Home and Hip Hop; yeah, it sounds crazy, but it works. It's the small touches like that -- the old with the new, whether the music, the plots, or the I-Miss-Miami hero who wears a hat and sports that Sunday-best back home country church look -- that help set a wonderfully captivating tone for a show that's sure to please, yup, even the most diverse of audiences.
For all it gets right, though, Justified still stumbles a few times along the way. Rather than present a singular story arc, similar to Breaking Bad, Justified instead weaves in a few constant themes through the series -- Givens's relationship with his ex-wife and an old flame, his dealings with his semi-estranged father, and his confrontations with his old chum Boyd Crowder that really only bookends the season -- but primarily deals in standalone episodes that develop the primary character and build his relationships with several secondaries but certainly don't construct a unified, singular storyline throughout. Whether Justified would have worked better with a sweeping arc of some sort is debatable, but the result is a handful of episodes that don't live up to the series's potential and struggle to find a thematic and emotional footing, even if they do prove somewhat entertaining in a bubble and work towards furthering the audience's understanding of the characters. Additionally, the acting occasionally suffers; Olyphant is a fantastic actor -- and oftentimes, it seems, underrated -- but the series surrounds him with a few not necessarily miscast but certainly underperforming players who occasionally suck the life out of even the most intense scenes. Otherwise, Justified is a smart and oftentimes engaging program; what it lacks in a greater story arc it makes up for in a wonderful primary character whose modern-day John Wayne veneer is a welcome addition to the 21st Western landscape.
Justified: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Justified: The Complete First Season sports a typically high quality Sony image and one that's in-line with a solid HD video presentation. Although the image is plagued on a fairly regular basis by bouts of banding and false colors -- which seem inherent to the source rather than an issue with the Blu-ray transfer itself -- the remainder of the transfer proves solid-to-exceptional. Noise is never much cause for concern, even in the darker corners. Black levels can be hit-or-miss, appearing deep here and murky there. Otherwise, detail remains consistently high; there are some incredible facial textures to be seen in close-up shots, and viewers will enjoy the way the transfer handles the subtle texturing of Givens's trademark hat or the general detailing of the natural and manmade locales in and around Harlan. Colors are accurate and satisfying, taking on a generally bright and natural tone; there is no evidence of overcooked or underdeveloped hues here. The image does take on a glossy, extraordinarily clean, very crisp, but generally flat appearance, all in conjunction with the expected attributes of a digital video image. Clarity is superb, particularly in the show's brighter outdoor scenes. Fans should be pleased with a solid-all-around presentation that seems limited only by faults that stem from the source.
Justified: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Justified: The Complete First Season sports a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Sony's audio presentation is occasionally crunchy with slightly muffled dialogue and sound effects creeping in, but overall clarity is strong; the misfires are certainly the exception rather than the rule. There's plenty of heft to the track -- more than with most -- and listeners will probably find an ideal volume a few ticks below their norm. Bass kicks in during the picture's Bluegrass/Hip Hop theme song, and several explosions heard around the season pack a fair wallop, too. Gunfire is generally crisp and satisfying, through the occasional shot mysteriously loses all power and sounds more like a cap gun. The track never really plops the audience in the middle of a firefight, but for a television series, the action scenes are satisfactorily done. General ambience is well-integrated into the track, and the back speakers chime in from time to time to help support sound effects and music. Dialogue is clean and accurate and remains focused straight up the middle. This is a satisfying track that finds the occasional stumbling block but is nevertheless a quality presentation.
Justified: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Justified: The Complete First Season offers a healthy assortment of extras, most of which are found on discs two and three. Several commentary tracks are included in support of the featurettes.
Justified: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Justified is a solid all-around show. It doesn't have the intensity of some of television's best -- it's not Breaking Bad -- but that laid-back atmosphere is nevertheless one of the series's charms. A wonderful lead character is the primary attraction here; Timothy Olyphant nails the role of Raylan Givens -- the body language is perfect and he wears the costumes like he was born to play the part -- and he's the primary factor in the show's success. Most of the rest of the cast could be taken or left behind, though Boyd Crowder works awfully well as a primary antagonist. Pacing issues and a few lesser episodes aside, though, Justified is an entertaining ride through the new-meets-old world of small-town justice. Sony's Blu-ray presentation of Justified: The Complete First Season yields a solid technical presentation and a nice assortment of extras. Recommended.
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Justified: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray - January 18-24 - January 17, 2011
Timothy Olyphant made a name for himself starring as Seth Bullock in the now legendary HBO series Deadwood. After that series abruptly ended in 2006, Olyphant floated around Hollywood until strapping on his cowboy boots once again for the FX series Justified. Today, ...
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