Timothy Olyphant is quite possibly my favorite actor, and I frequently find myself having to fiercely defend his on-screen chops and role choices. Ever since I saw him as Mickey, one of the two killers in the sequel to Scream in 1997, I knew he had potential. Playing a strange film student by day, and masked serial killer by night, he already had villainy down to an eerie science. This was further bolstered by his role as a slick domestic terrorist in 2007’s Live Free Or Die Hard, even though everyone knows that going up against John McClane is the mother of all mistakes. Even if you don’t give him a gun or a knife, he can still play a moderate bastard in roles like Kelly, a scheming porn producer in The Girl Next Door.
On the flipside, he’s been known to step over to the right side of the law in some of his roles. He provided much of the comic relief as Delroy Lindo’s wisecracking police partner in 2000’s car theft caper Gone In 60 Seconds. He also has a considerable hit on his hands as Raylan Givens, the loose cannon U.S. marshal in the FX series Justified. The show is giddy fun, with his character playing the “shoot first, shoot a lot, and maybe ask questions later if he feels like it” card perfectly. Taking the lead role in last year’s The Crazies, he played the sheriff of a small town overcome by a strange infection, leading survivors against those who were not quite zombies, but no longer fully human, in a race for their lives. Olyphant was sometimes serious, sometimes funny in his role as a protector in this year’s alien flick, I Am Number Four.
He’s great at playing a character that you’re not sure how you feel about as well. Playing Nicko, a mysterious and creepy ex-military operative in A Perfect Getaway, alongside Milla Jovovich and Steve Zahn, you’re not sure if he’s the bad guy or just a red herring through most of the movie. Even more so, I steadfastly defend him as the choice for Agent 47 in Hitman. He played the lead role with every bit the lack of emotion and stony-faced detachment he was supposed to, just as the character did in the video game that spawned the film (even you can even glean that sort of character development, or lack thereof, from a video game). I reject offhand any assertions that the role should have been given to Jason Statham, as he does not and should not have monopoly on the action genre, and was probably off elsewhere anyway, exacting revenge, like he does in every movie he’s in these days.
He can even hold his own in a romantic comedy, as he did in Catch and Release, alongside Jennifer Garner and Kevin Smith (who also co-starred with him in Live Free Or Die Hard), playing Fritz, a photographer who hides a heart of gold under an insensitive and sarcastic exterior.
From the way that he grits his teeth when he talks, to the way he brings on the intense look where he’s almost about to cry but doesn’t quite get there, to the way he can play a hero, villain, or anything in between, Timothy Olyphant is fantastic, and yet highly underrated.
“It’s like he’s Simon and I’m Garfunkel. Look at me, man- I’m fuckin’ Garfunkel.” ~ Timothy Olyphant, The Girl Next Door