The Big Picture

  • Timothy Olyphant captivates audiences with his charismatic performances, from quirky side characters to stoic lawmen.
  • Olyphant notably played U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in
  • In
    The Crazies
    , Olyphant shines as a small town sheriff facing a terrifying infection outbreak with skill and swagger.

Timothy Olyphant has been entertaining and regaling audiences for decades. His unique brand of charisma, offbeat charm and grit have combined to create a potpourri of memorable characters since the mid-1990s. From one of his earliest feature appearances in Wes Craven‘s Scream 2 as the secretive friend of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Mickey Altieri, to his scene-stealing appearance as a drug dealer in Go, the actor has proven time and time again how effective he is in both support and lead parts. Olyphant’s entertaining idiosyncrasies are often woven into his characters — and some of his major parts on the small screen have allowed his sardonic sense of humor to shine through. Santa Clarita Diet has understandably acquired a sturdy cult following, and its staunchest admirers continue to have their appetite for further seasons of the show go sadly unsated. HBO’s Deadwood allowed Olyphant to front up against formidable saloon owners and brutal gunslingers of the Old West, and his upstanding Marshal Seth Bullock was a stoic paragon of strength and dignity.

However, Olyphant’s signature role is arguably that of U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in the Elmore Leonard inspired crime series Justified. A laconic lawman with a penchant for dry quips and occasional sudden outbursts — it’s as if the methodical, sashaying Givens was tailor-made for the actor. However, it’s not the only memorable lawman the star has played, however. Deadwood aside, he ably supported Nicolas Cage in Gone in 60 Seconds at the turn of the millennium for example, but his character definitely deserved more screen time. In fact, the whole ensemble did in retrospect. Olyphant’s turn in Breck Eisner‘s 2010 remake of George Romero‘s The Crazies is vintage Olyphant from first to last frame. He is the perfect combination of rugged everyman and wiry tactician, with the odd dab of humor thrown in to lighten the horror.

the crazies poster

The Crazies

After a strange and insecure plane crash, an unusual toxic virus enters a quaint farming town. A young couple are quarantined, but they fight for survival along with help from a couple of people.

Release Date
February 26, 2010


Main Genre

Scott Kosar , Ray Wright , George A. Romero

Overture Films

Fear thy neighbor.

A Frightening Evocation of Small Town Horror

Breck Eisner’s 2010 film quite possibly equals the original. While all attempts to remake the famed horror auteur’s Night of the Living Dead have fallen short of the 1968 version’s sheer brilliance, this incarnation fires on all cylinders from the start, and remains a rollicking, slickly-paced ride from the scene-setting opening moments to the explosive final few images. Duane Jones is a prime exemple of a one-of-a-kind hero in the original Night of the Living Dead, and Olyphant’s small town sheriff David Dutton is heroic in his unfeigned selflessness and proficiency for survival against steadily mounting odds. Dutton also tends to make the right decisions, his penchant for sensible choices laudable given the marauding airborne threat speedily affecting the country town’s moseying denizens. While Zack Snyder‘s remake of Dawn of the Dead was an unequivocal blast of frenetic, hectically edited bedlam, this one gets under the skin more gradually. A legitimately atmospheric not-quite-zombie film.

Well shot in the way it captures rustic crawl of a small town upon the plains of Iowa, the movie wastes no time in introducing the viewer to the eventual hero, as well as the enemy, as Olyphant’s rangy lawman watches the local youth league baseball team swat it out against the blazing sky of a spring season only just beginning to warm up. Without warning, one of the town’s long-standing residents shambles out onto the pitch, dead-eyed and ostensibly oblivious to the fact a game is underway. And he’s toting a rifle as well. Springing into action, Dutton launches at the unresponsive interloper and is forced to resort to drastic measures to stop him. It’s a chilling opening gambit for a film that refuses to release its grip on the tension line. As more and more townsfolk begin to exhibit the same bizarre symptoms — distant unresponsiveness followed by cold, detached acts of heinous destruction — Dutton and his dutiful deputy Russell (Joe Anderson, The Grey) avert that the water system may be contaminated after discovering a plane wreck in a local dam surrounded by a gruesome collection of ghoulish cadavers. Of course, the uncooperative mayor disagrees. It’s a scary first 30 minutes.

Timothy Olyphant Is Supported by an Impressive Cast

Once the expositional elements sink in, The Crazies becomes a strong showcase for its lead performers. As Dutton’s pregnant wife Judy, Radha Mitchell is never less than utterly believable. The talented Australian actress has delivered strong work as far back as Pitch Black, and is set to head the cast of the hotly anticipated upcoming Disney+ show Last Days of the Space Age. Mitchell’s honest portrayal of resourceful physician Judy makes for the perfect counterpart to Olyphant’s more droll David. Thrust against fast-escalating disaster as the infection (later revealed to potentially be a mishandled biological weapon) begins to eat into the town, the Dutton duo and Russell prove an enduring band of personalities to accompany. Once the town is declared unsalvageable by a ruthless military contingent in an effort to stymie the spread of the infection, the trio, together with Becca (Danielle Panabaker), are forced to flee despite escape always seeming a near impossible proposition.

Timothy Olyphant is the Perfect Choice to Play the Lawman in Peril

Olyphant’s unique, naturalistic approach to a character far removed from extraordinary circumstances works beautifully. Vacillating between puzzled bemusement and genuine bewilderment as the frightening new reality of the situation begins to take shape at a very rapid pace, his Dutton has little to no time to consider the minutiae of the why’s, only the bigger picture regarding survival. Equipped with a propensity for snap decision-making, Olyphant never loses that trademark swagger amidst all the chaos. At one point, Dutton has to evade one of the affected while dodging an arrant buzzsaw thwarted by the length of its own cord, and the absurd terror of it all is given gravity by the lead’s portrayal.

As a viewing experience, The Crazies deserves kudos for the ways its characters are rendered vulnerable types still capable of making considered decisions rather than asinine ones to beget more disaster. No one is invincible in The Crazies, even if the ending proves a trifle too miraculous. While not exactly a post-apocalyptic drama as the events are concentrated to one fairly contained setting (a county in Iowa), The Crazies has echoes of Carpenter in its construction with a hint of Romero in the shadows. Timothy Olyphant will be striding onto television screens bearing the patented Givens hat once again very soon, so now is as good a time as any to revisit the legendary actor’s filmography. The Crazies is a bona fide highpoint.

The Crazies is currently available to rent or buy on Apple TV+ in the U.S.


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