Winter has come and the New Year will be rung in soon. That means something else is on its way: another new season of Justified. Its season premiere is on Jan. 7. What better way to tide yourself over until spring than to watch one of the best shows on television?
If you are going to be new to the show, I would suggest binge-watching on Amazon. Trust me. It's worth doing. The show has some of the best dialogue and acting that I have seen.
Where Justified really excels, beside its main core of characters, is the casting of the peripheral ones. People like Margo Martindale and Neal McDonough. Though they were the main villains, they brought such a level to their work that they were far from being cardboard cut outs like someone from, say Walker, Texas Ranger. They bring in people that you might not even associate with dramas, like Mike O'Malley and Patton Oswalt. I was stunned at the work that O'Malley put in as the sadistic hit man from his season.
The show, while already great, did something that I really liked last season: It allowed its secondary characters like Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts) and Rachel Brooks (Erica Tazel) to spread their wings and tell their own stories and not just appear for two minutes and snark at Timothy Olyphant's Raylan Givens. Gutterson's dialogue with Colt Rhodes (Ron Eldard) in last season's finale was a thing of beauty.
I'm really interested in seeing where this season goes with Givens and his frenemy, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Givens has gone to a really dark place, walking away while the Detroit Mob rubbed out one of their own. Crowder is also in a very bad place, having seen his dream of buying a home and living a semi-respectable life with Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) snatched away at the very last second. This season also marks the return of Dewey "You Mean I've Got Four Kidneys?!?!" Crowder (Damon Herriman), which should send all fans of the show into paroxysms of joy. The human cockroach, Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) -- he who has seen about five people shot around him without suffering a scratch -- will also be great to see. Burns can convey so much with just the mere arch of an eyebrow and he may be the only criminal who does not fear Givens (even after having his gun pointed right at his forehead).
On the law enforcement side,besides Gutterson and Brooks, I'm always giddy to hear what Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) has to say. I'm hoping there's also a good arc involving Mullen and his pending retirement.
I could write about 10,000 words about this show, but figure that this season might be over by the time I finish. Instead, I leave you with this: Get ready to return to Harlan, everyone.
The story of the most dominant racehorse of all time does not easily fit into the standard inspirational sports flick mold. Such films typically require its protagonists to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles be they competitive (Hoosiers) personal (The Natural) societal (Ali) or some combination of all three (Remember the Titans). But by all accounts the greatest challenges to Secretariat capturing of the 1973 Triple Crown were not rival horses — indeed Secretariat had no true rival — but a pair of slow starts and an abscess. And abscesses — apologies to dermatologists — simply aren’t all that effective as dramatic devices.
Lacking most of the vital ingredients of the traditional underdog movie formula Disney’s Secretariat is forced to synthesize them. Its screenplay written by Mike Rich and based rather loosely on the book Secretariat: The Making of a Champion by William Nack adopts a conventional save-the-farm framework: When her parents pass away within months of each other Denver housewife Penny Tweedy (Diane Lane) is advised to sell off her family’s Virginia-based Meadow Stables a beautiful but unprofitable horse-breeding enterprise in order to pay the onerous inheritance taxes levied by the state. But Penny her deceased father’s hackneyed horse-inspired counsel fresh in her mind (“You’ve got to run your own race ” etc. etc.) is loath to depart with such a cherished heirloom. So she concocts a scheme just idiotic enough to work betting the farm — literally — that her new horse Big Red in whom she has an almost Messianic faith will win the Kentucky Derby Preakness and Belmont races in succession.
Of course Big Red under the stage name Secretariat goes on to do just that but only after the film subjects us to nearly two hours of manufactured melodrama. Lane grasping all-too conspicuously for awards consideration treats every line as if it were the St. Crispin’s Day speech. Her character Penny exhibits a hair-trigger sensitivity to the sounds of skeptics and naysayers bursting forth with a polite rebuke and a stern sermon for anyone who dares doubt her crusade from the trash-talking owner of a rival horse to her annoyingly pragmatic husband (Dylan Walsh).
Lane isn’t alone in her grandiosity. The entire production reeks of it as director Randall Wallace lines the story with fetid chunks of overwrought Oscar bait like so many droppings in an untended stable even using Old Testament quotations and gospel music to endow Penny’s quest with biblical significance. John Malkovich is kind enough to inject some mirth into the heavy-handed proceedings hamming it up as Secretariat’s trainer Lucien Laurin a French-Canadian curmudgeon with an odd sartorial palette. It’s not enough however to alleviate the discomfort of witnessing the film's quasi-Sambo depiction of Secretariat’s famed groom Eddie Sweat (Nelsan Ellis) which reaches its cringeworthy zenith when Sweat runs out to the track on the eve of the Belmont Stakes and exclaims to no one in particular that “Big Red done eat his breakfast this mornin’!!!” Bagger Vance would be proud. Whether or not Ellis’ portrayal of Sweat’s cadence and mannerisms is accurate (and for all I know it may well be) the character is too thinly drawn to register as anything more than an amiable simple-minded servant.
Animal lovers will be happy to know that the horses in Secretariat come off looking far better than their human counterparts and not just because they’re alloted the best dialogue. In the training and racing sequences Wallace effectively conveys the strength and majesty of the fearsome animals drawing us into the action and creating a strong element of suspense even though the final result is a fait accompli. It's too bad the rest of the film never makes it out of the gate.