Currently streaming on AppleTV+ from director Dennis Lehane is the story of a man who had it all and became careless with it in BLACK BIRD.
Jimmy Keene (Taron Egerton) is a handsome and impeccably dressed young man who finds himself in a position of losing money and defending a friend who cheated and lied. Thinking that event was over, his house is raided by the FBI. Now he has traded in his impeccable suits for an orange coverall.
Visiting his son is, Big Jim Keene (Ray Liotta), a former cop, tells Jimmy that local prosecutor Edmund Beaumont (Robert Wisdom) can not be bought. Pleading guilty, he discovers that everyone who promised a few years lied as the judge hands down a 10-year prison sentence. Seven months in Jimmy comes face to face with Beaumont again and with Agent Lauren McCauley (Sepideh Moafi).
Admitting that Jimmy could charm his way out of anything, Agent McCauley wants Jimmy to get information from a serial killer. In exchange for his help, Jimmy would get full commutation of his sentence. If he doesn’t get the information then he is back where he started. At first, he says no because he does not trust Beaumont, but McCauley leaves the file for him to see what they are up against – and he starts to read.
In 1994, Brian Miller (Greg Kinnear) is a Chief County Investigator for the sheriff along with Officer Holt (Trazi Lashawn) found one of the young victims in a corn field. Beginning their investigation, Miller discovers that the information they have matches with other incidences that have happened. Officer Chris Drysdale (Carlo Alban) mentions Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser) and Miller’s ears are burning.
A chance to interview Hall, Miller also meets Det. Aborn (Cullen Moss) and they all think that the talk is a waste of time. That is until Larry starts talking about what he dreams about and about brother Gary (Jake McLaughlin) and then when presented with a photograph of a young woman, it all falls apart.
Miller has no choice but to take it up the chair, enter Beaumont and McCauley and deciding if Jimmy can handle dealing with a serial killer. Bring Larry in again, he again starts talking and this time about his depression and loneliness and it leads to a shocking confession. As the team gets things on paper, they are shocked once again. Brother Gary is furious with the police and refuses to believe anything they say about Larry.
Now, Jimmy is being transferred to Springfield to the prison where Larry is being held. The rules are simple, don’t make an instant friendship with Hall, don’t break any rules and the only people who know who he really is are the warden and Dr.
Outside, the court of appeals is moving forward and so is the schedule that Jimmy is on. Now the real story begins.
Egerton as Keene is a kid who has spent most of his life without doing what ever he wanted as if almost feeling bulletproof. Prison definetly is not for him so when offered a way out, he did not trust it because of lies he had been told before prison. The more he talks with the FBI, and with his father ill, Keene decides this is a way out. Egerton gives his character so much charm and, dare I say, almost as sly as Larry Hall without the murder. As he listens to the stories that are meant to free him, the walls are closing in and Egerton shows us that Keene is no longer bulletproof – he is literally crawling his way to freedom.
Kinnear as Miller is struck from the moment he is taken to the body of Jessica Roache. The look that this actor gives lets you know from that moment on, nothing is going to stop him from finding the killer. Hitting wall after wall, Miller twists, turns and dodges until he gets the answers. Kinnear does a stellar job in this role and I enjoyed it immensely which is odd considering the content of the material.
Moafi as McCauley is the proverbial dog with a bone. No one is going to convince this agent that anyone else is responsible other than Larry. Teaming up with Miller, they pull apart and piece together clues that lead to shocking revelations. Moafi gives her character courage, righteous anger and a coolness that I gave plenty of nods too.
Liotta as Big Keene is a father who is trying to do the right thing after knowing he was not the father he should have been. The problem is, now he is going overboard and puts his son’s life in danger. It was awesome to see Liotta and will be missed on big and small screens. Wisdom as Beaumont is doing his job but, in Keene’s eyes, he is not to be trusted. Alban as Drysdale can not believe that Larry could do anything wrong and refers to him as a “serial confessor”. McLaughlin as Gary is a dedicated brother who will protect him to the end – but what will it cost humanity?
Now, I save this for last because I still am stunned (but I shouldn’t be) at the performance of Paul Walter Hauser as Larry. The first time I truly noticed this actor was in the 2019 film RICHARD JEWELL and was gob smacked at his performance. When I read that he was in BLACK BIRD along with Egerton, I knew I had to see it. I was not disappointed – instead, I was disturbed, disgusted, confused, angry, yelling at the screen and exhausted by the end of the series. THAT is how you know that only Hauser could have played this role. Every moment Hauser is on screen is pure perfection (again, is weird considering the material, right?). He takes the audience on a journey as Larry of insanity, justification, weird innocence, even weirder childhood and a way of talking that is almost hypnotic and explanations that are jaw dropping.
Apple+ is a video on demand web television that debuted in 2019. Viewable through Apple’s TV app, CEO Tim Cook wanted original content calling it “a great opportunity for us from a creation point of view”. From THE MORNING SHOW to TRYING and THE BANKER and Jason Momoa in SEE, there is plenty of choices for everyone. Plenty of genres? That is exactly what they are bringing to viewers and to see more of what they have to offer please visit www.apple.com/tv/.
Director Lehane should be awarded for what he has put together with a cast that is so well chosen and riveting to watch. The mixture of flashbacks, the victims’ stories and those involved whirlwind around Keene and Hall as their own story unfolds. It is the bouncing back and forth between Keene and Hall that is a match that will send the brain scrambling.
There is not one episode that wavers with the breakdown at the end of reality for almost everyone involved. The breaking point is so fragile in each of the characters that being prepared for it – I wasn’t.
In the end – only one knows the truth until now!