In a big change of pace, Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) didn't have to kill any major bad guys this season on Justified. The villains still met their end as the heroin business took its toll before sales even started. And like always, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) somehow survived it all.
Season 5 of Justified leaned heavily on the dysfunction of the Crowe family. The arrival of Daryl Crowe (Michael Rapaport) and his crew caused a lot of headaches for Raylan. Daryl even joined forces with Boyd to smuggle heroin from Mexico. The newest Justified villain proved that he can't be trusted as he turned on Boyd, which made the Mexican cartel that provided the drugs angry, and worst of all, convinced nephew Kendal Crowe (Jacob Lofland) to confess to shooting Chief Deputy Art Mullen (Nick Searcy). Daryl was the man holding the smoking gun, but he'll let Kendal — a minor — rot in lockup, even if it meant he gets tried as an adult. Even for a bad guy, Daryl is a world-class lowlife.
Justified is never short on antagonists. Many criminals are up to no good, but this season underutilized some baddies. In the beginning of the season, Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) and Boyd teamed up to move heroin. It appeared that Mr. Duffy would play a big part in the criminal underworld, but then he stayed in hiding where it was safe. He probably didn't want to get tortured by the Mexican cartel, fuming because of all the trouble Boyd and Daryl caused getting the product across the border.
Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) spent the entire season locked up for trying to dispose of a dead body in season four. Although she was no use to the outside world, her prison adventures were an interesting side story this season. However, the presence of the cartel was completely wasted. Yes, the three members played a prominent role in the finale, but they could have evolved to be the main antagonists. And only three members? Certainly they could have brought more backup. If there had been more members, Boyd wouldn’t have outsmarted them by luring Marshals Rachel Brooks (Erica Tazel) and Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts) to Ava's house. The cartel members all died on the front porch after a shootout.
Raylan Never Got His Hands Dirty
Rough outlaws such as the Crowes usually meet their maker after Raylan pulls the trigger. Not so this season. Danny Crowe (A.J. Buckley) actually faced off against Raylan, but accidentally killed himself when he misstepped and pierced his neck with his own knife. The big showdown between Raylan and Darryl never materialized as Wendy Crowe (Alicia Witt) shot her own brother. Raylan wasn't even there to take down the cartel members. Kind of anti-climactic.
Boyd’s Big Brain and Big File
Finally, Boyd will be brought to justice. Or killed. Next season, Justified hits the home stretch. In the final season, we know the marshals plan to nab Boyd for his crimes. Miraculously, Boyd's intellect has saved him from death numerous times, most notably in wiggling his way out of the cartel's grasp. But the case against Boyd, represented by a thick file full of paperwork, is strong. Murder, drugs, prostitution, and other crimes will stick when Raylan and the other marshals pin all their evidence on Boyd. Anything less than a shootout or standoff with Raylan will be a disappointment.
The funny thing about Sundance is that any person at any time could be a star. On the street you're just waiting to peer under a pair of aviators or a fur-trimmed parka hood to see someone totally famous. Everyone is looking for the same thing in the movie theaters too. You go out to see the stars, like Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon in the new movie Mud, but the problem is, while the stars show up, the movie always doesn't. Mud is a movie filled with great performances not only from the biggest names on the marquee, but also American Horror Story mainstay Sarah Paulson, Oscar nominee Michael Shannon and the two teenage newcomers Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland. The problem is, they're the best thing about the movie.
There are things to like about writer/director Jeff Nichols' (Take Shelter) heartwarming coming-of-age story, but its problems outweigh its delights. It's biggest problem is that the 130-minute running time is about 40 minutes too long. The second, and boy is it a doozy, that the movie is so close to verging on misogynist that the more feminist leaning parts of the Internet should rev up their keyboards now. There is not a woman in this movie who doesn't betray her man, cheat on him, use him, steal his home, rob him of his authenticity, make him move to a boring condo complex in the suburbs, or otherwise force him of his natural and driving male essence.
The story is about two boys, Ellis and the wonderfully named Neckbone, two kids who live along a river in Arkansas and one day stumble upon a fugitive (McConaughey) living in a boat stranded on an island in the river. He is a sweet-talking charmer (does McConaughey play anything but) who is on the run from the law after killing the man who beat up the woman he loves (Witherspoon). He has nothing but a pistol and a magic shirt that he uses for protection (the irony of the oft-topless McConaughey having a magic shirt should be lost on no one) and he needs the boys to bring him food. Slowly they get embroiled in his plot to escape with his girl Juniper and avoid both the law and the dead man's family that is hunting for him. This is all while Ellis' father and mother are getting a divorce and he's dealing with falling in love with his first girlfriend, who, of course, cheats on him and then humiliates him in public. This thing might as well be a river fort with a giant "No Girlz Allowed" sign out front.
The takeaway to the story seems to be that the only people you can count on in this world are your male friends and your father figure. At the end of the movie, after all hell breaks loose as Ellis and Neckbone's entanglement with Mud gets crazy and deadly, we see each male character have a touching moment with his father figure. None of them are any good – Ellis' father can't make money, Mud's adopted father is a deadly "assassin," and Neck's uncle treats women possibly the worst of any of them – but, heck, in a man's world it's the man who teaches you how to man like a man that man man man. And some of the man manning that men masculine you with is hatred of women. Ellis' father (the wonderful Ray McKinnon) tells him at one point, "Women are tough. They set you up for some." Eventually, when Ellis confronts Mud about how much girls suck, Mud replies, "If you find a girl half as good as you, you'll be all set." See, a woman can never be as good as a man. At least not a man who is loyal to other men. The movie ends with the Beach Boys song "Help Me, Rhonda," which a character explains earlier is about a man who needs to get over a girl by having sex with another girl. Even as the credits are rolling this movie is telling us that women are fickle and replaceable, good only for sex, and not nearly as good as the men in life.
For all of its gorgeous cinematography and Southern charm, this is a well-told story. Film festivals need another movie about teenage boys coming of age and their complicated relationships with their father like a Big Mac needs more calories. And it's not especially adept in its storytelling. There is a mention of snakes in the first 30 minutes followed by a complicated explanation that everyone in the theater sees is going to end in a snake bite and a redemption. The ending isn't as saccharine and predictable as you might think, but it's close. And of course that redemption in the end is only for those in the possession of at least one Y chromosome. Seriously, our stars deserve better than this.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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