Based on the novels by Craig Johnson
Cast: Robert Taylor, Katee Sachoff, Bailey Chase, Lou Diamond Phillips...
Runtime: TV series, 60 minutes
Reviewed by Larry Jung
I watched the pilot for the new A&E Network TV series Longmire. Never having read any of the Longmire books by Craig Johnson, I didn't know what to expect — a police procedural with a modern-day Western setting? CSI with Stetsons? Gunsmoke with cars and cell phones? It turned out to be a little of both. The main character, Walt Longmire, approaches his modern-day crimes with an old fashioned style of law enforcement.
Set in the wide open countryside of Wyoming, the story opens with a body reported in the hills. Walt Longmire, the Sheriff, is called to investigate but he ignores the repeated calls for him to come to the crime scene. We learn later that he is grieving over his recently dead wife. He has been shirking his duties as Sheriff, not even going into the office. A mysterious shooting death brings Longmire out of his apathy.
Tensions are running high — Branch Connally, one of Longmire's deputies, is ambitious to become Sheriff and has been shouldering the day-to-day responsibilities. This new investigation reignites ill feelings between the Indian Reservation and the Sheriff. Even Longmire's long-time Indian friend, Henry Standing Bear, becomes a suspect.
Longmire's old fashioned Western style of peace keeping is challenged by Deputy Connally. Longmire makes it a point not to utilize computers. He doesn't even carry a cell phone. Longmire wears a broad brimmed Western hat, jeans, and work shirt rather than a uniform. Like the lawmen of the Old West, Longmire works the case alone.
Although filmed in New Mexico, the Longmire stories are set in the fictional county of Absaroka, Wyoming. Robert Taylor gives a good performance as the laconic Western Sheriff. For one thing, Taylor's craggy face looks the part. He is convincing as being unflappable, smart, and compassionate. Katee Sachoff plays Deputy Victoria "Vic" Moretti. She has only been with the department for 6 months but is an experienced Philadelphia cop. Although she is still getting used to the locals and the rugged country, Vic is capable and trustworthy. Katee Sachoff is well-known for her role in Battlestar Galactica as Starbuck. She gives her role as Vic a feisty energy. Lou Diamond Phillips plays Longmire's long time friend Henry Standing Bear. Bailey Chase plays Deputy Branch Connally. Phillips and Chase make the best of stock characters in a genre story.
Unfortunately, the crime and its resolution were weak. Both were derivative of so many TV crime shows. Longmire's relationship with Henry Standing Bear is a cliché. So is the threat from Deputy Branch Connally ousting Longmire as Sheriff in the coming election.
Unless all the crimes and bad guys Sherriff Longmire has to deal with are as simple as in this case, he might be wise to invest in a cell phone and adopt modern forensics to gather evidence that will stand up in a court of law.
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