Timothy Olyphant is a very underrated actor. If you take a quick look at his past films and tv roles, what you find is a man who provides consistently decent, sometimes brilliant performances, which fall just short of public awareness. He is becoming much more a go-to actor rather than a stand-out lead and I think there is something to be said for that.
There are some great performances that many wouldn’t even realise was Olyphant. One of the chasing cops in Nicholas Cage’s Gone in Sixty Seconds, the high-tech villain who was outdone by Bruce Willis’ blunt force in Die Hard 4 or even one of the “leads” in tv show Deadwood and more famously Justified.
Unfortunately, Olyphant’s first step into a leading film role seems to have been the Hitman video game film adaptation. I haven’t seen the movie but it strikes me that not many people were raving about it after it had finished and it probably went someway to damaging Olyphant’s leading film star credibility.
If that is the case, I hope The Crazies has gone someway to rectifying that. He carries the film effortlessly, being a calm, heroic, everyman that the audience naturally wants to succeed. The film isn’t necessarily an original, groundbreaking movie but Olyphant helps bring an appeal to what is basically a “small town under-siege.”
That is doing the film some injustice though. The “under-siege” aspect of the movie seems to be a disease which is turning the residents into “Crazies.” This term isn’t actually used but it seems like the most appropriate phrase. What I initially thought was going to another zombie film had something slightly different. The towns-folk seem to have a psychotic breakdown, demonstrating violent tendencies while being seemingly aware of their actions.
This is a great way to up the fear in the movie. Anyone could be “infected” and subsequently, other than Olyphant and his wife, there is a great “trust-no-one” feel to the film. As you watch the cast try to escape the town, whether they can trust the person who seems to be helping them is a brilliant aspect of the film.
This “not quite zombie” feel to the movie means that there are some great, crazy killers. From a man who makes his way through a medical bay killing the patients to a gang of crazed hunters who are hunting people, there are some fantastic set-piece obstacles for Olyphant to make his way through.
The film does change mid-way through, the military become involved and the story changes slightly. This only adds to the appeal, as the film isn’t just about a small town sheriff versus zombies, but becomes an “escape the military” movie. It gives the film an injection of life that stops it feeling stale and familiar.
It’s not enough to raise it above a standard horror/thriller but it does try something new and feels different compared to the extreme violent horror of Saw, the found-footage of Paranormal Activity or any of the zombie films that keep appearing.
Best of all, Timothy Olyphant gets to show off how good an actor he really is. I just hope that he is going to start getting the roles that he deserves, rather than always being the support/villain.
Overall, The Crazies is a solid horror that tries to do something different with the very familiar “town under-siege from zombies.” It mixes that element with the idea of “trust no-one” and also manages to constantly keep you on your toes, offering a good scare every now and then. It also demonstrates that Timothy Olyphant should be getting better film roles.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)