Chris Connor reviews Apple TV+’s Black Bird…
Apple TV+ has had quite the start to 2022 with several hugely successful shows including Slow Horses, Pachinko and Severance, and the latest to grace the streaming platform is the Taron Egerton-led true crime drama Black Bird, which tells the real life story of Jimmy Keene and is based on his 2010 autobiography In With the Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption.
Keene was serving a sentence for cocaine smuggling and firearm possession and was offered a way out if he was able to extract a confession from alleged murderer Larry Hall, here played by Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell, Cobra Kai). Also featuring is the late great Ray Liotta as Jimmy’s ex-cop dad and Greg Kinnear as Brian Miller, one of the cops tasked with investigating the murders Hall was alleged to have committed.
There is such a market for true crime content that series have to go above and beyond to stand out from the competition and Black Bird manages this with the way it is able to delicately balance its subject matter, and through the calibre of its cast and their performances.
Egerton of course is no stranger to transformative performances having electrified audiences with his Elton John performance in Rocketman but here he is worlds away, bulked out and doing a largely convincing American accent. Egerton more than holds his own against Ray Liotta who appeared in some of the defining crime films of the past four decades, and as far as final roles go this is a fine one for Liotta.
There are shades of the exceptional first season of True Detective as we get creepy glimpses at the crimes and the initial investigation, intercut with Keene’s main mission. The show builds tension immaculately and will leave viewers begging for more. The slow wear down of Jimmy’s smugness and charm is exhilarating viewing and a credit to the writing and performances to make it wholly believable.
The show is penned by legendary writer Dennis Lehane, a titan of crime fiction behind Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River, so it is perhaps no surprise of the shows quality but it is Lehane’s first time as showrunner and he has shown an instant aptitude, bringing his understanding of the genre to the fore immediately. The score meanwhile comes from eclectic Scottish alternative rock icons Mogwai, which issure to pique the interest of their fans.
In addition to a fine final performance from Ray Liotta, we are treated to some of the best work in Taron Egerton’s career to date and a nuanced, menacing performance from Paul Walter Hauser, a far cry from his work in Cobra Kai. The electric writing and quality production ensure that Black Bird is a true crime series not to be missed and another success story in Apple’s stunning start to 2022.