I read a handful of Elmore Leonard books when I was in ninth grade, and though I didn’t think much of them as books, I remember thinking to myself that they would probably make for good movies. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who had this thought. I was also right. Out of Sight, Jackie Brown, Get Shorty, and a handful of others, were all Leonard stories adapted into movies, and all turned out to be entertaining translations.
Recently FX used one of Leonard’s short stories, “Fire in the Hole,” as the basis for the new show, Justified, about a shoot-first-ask-questions-later US Marshall, Raylan Givens (who also appears in a couple of Leonard’s novels). After a high profile shooting of a Miami gun dealer, Raylan is transferred to the Kentucky field office, which just happens to be his old stomping grounds. There he encounters all manner of ghosts from his past, things he was running from when he left the Bluegrass State, such as his estranged father, ex-wife, sexy-lady acquaintance who always had a bit of a thing for our lawman, and a childhood friend cum white supremacist bomber, among them.
Raylan is an anachronism. He belongs to a part of law enforcement history that is more at home in the mythology of the American west than in a modern day urban environment. He wears a cowboy hat, and dispenses his own brand of frontier justice. Of course the higher ups take umbrage with his methods, but it is pure television gold. To quell the minds of his superiors, after each quick-draw where he is invariably the faster man, he remarks, “It was justified.” In short, he is a 19th century cowboy figure transplanted into the twenty-first century.
You have to love any series where the first scene is someone getting shot, and not just shot, wild-west-quick-draw shot. When that happens you know you’re in for a rollicking good time. And quickly following on the heels of that initial shootout you watch two white supremacists blow up Doug E. Doug’s church with a fucking rocket launcher.
Not only does Raylan do battle with racists, but he hunts down escaped convicts, including Cameron Frye from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, fights drug dealers, deals with his bat shit crazy dad who has a penchant for wrecking shit with his trusty Louisville Slugger, and still manages to hump Ava, the hot girl who has had a crush on him since they were kids. She’s a badass in her own right, her husband wouldn’t stop beating her, so she shot him with his own rifle. Fuck yeah.
And they swear. Fuck yes they swear. Justified is one of those shows that wouldn’t work if they couldn’t curse. You know that in reality these people would be as profane as a drunken nun, and you just wouldn’t buy it if they weren’t throwing around f bombs and the like. I don’t know how they get around the regulations (hell, I don’t even know what the regulations are), maybe it is on late enough that no one care, or maybe FX just doesn’t give a shit and said, “fuck it, we’ll pay you piddly little fine, FCC, kiss my ass.” That certainly would be in keeping with the character of the show.
It is refreshing to see some real badass shit on the television box, and even more refreshing that they are doing it right so far. Justified has been getting better with every episode, and until it starts to suck, I’ll keep looking forward to each new episode.