Justified: after killing a mobster in Miami, old-fashioned US marshal Raylan Givens is re-assigned back to his home turf, Harlan County, Kentucky – where his past comes back to bite him. At the heart of the show are scores of larger-than-life characters, all of whom are well-developed over the season(s) and who’s intricate, interlacing, backgrounds are slowly revealed as the show rolls forward. When Raylan (Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Goggins) are in the same scene, it’s TV Dynamite – not to mention other great leads in Arlo, Art, Mags, Dickie, Doyle, and supporting cast members like Gutterson, Johnny, Duffy, Bo, Helen, Ava, Loretta, Dewey… and although the show hangs mostly on Givens, there are very few characters that you’d want to write out. It stands out against most TV shows by channeling an old-fashioned western, redneck, lawless, gun-slinging vibe. It’s also focused more on entertainment, over just drama: sure, the story can be a tad on the ridiculous-and-conventient side (how many criminals are there in this district? How many men can one man kill? etc, etc) but the writers seem to understand that this is what makes the show so watchable. The script and story-writing is solid, and there’s a lot of comedy one-liners that you could easily miss. Season one went for the ‘one case per episode’ format with bits of backstory mixed in, whereas season two gambled with the larger, holistic end-to-end story arc and a few one-off cases thrown in – and when coupled with better production, writing, and a bigger budget, it really improved the show. There aren’t too many shows that blend drama, tension, action, wit and succeed in keeping it entertaining. Justified is a gem.
Season 1: 7/10
Season 2: 8/10
Chaos (2006): Statham, Snipes and Ryan Philippe playing off each other in a film about a complicated bank robbery. The majority of the film walked a tightrope between brilliant and shit, but it stayed watchable. A twist-o-rama at the end (complete with flashbacks for the terminally stupid) pretty much saves it, although didn’t leave many clues throughout the film to figure it out yourself. The 5.1 surround was great, but the dialogue / action balance was rubbish. It’s OK, but will never make a list of the best cop films ever.
Hana-Bi: a film of two halves really. First part sets up the backdrop for the second, but because all of the action and drama had happened at the start I was pretty restless after the hour mark. Long shots, minimal style, bare dialogue contrasting with the graphic violence and slapstick comedy moments make it a bit of a mixed bag. Very little happens, but the bodycount’s impressive! Overall, not as good as other similar film’s he’s done (Violent Cop / Sonatine) or starred in (Gonin), but worth watching if you like ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano.