Andrea’s film review – Black Bird

Black Bird ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali

Jimmy Keene is sentenced to 10 years in a minimum security prison but he cuts a deal with the FBI to befriend a suspected serial killer. Keene has to elicit a confession from Larry Hall to find the bodies of as many as eighteen women. Available to watch on Apple +

This six-episode miniseries is a gripping and strong entry in the already pretty impressive catalogue of Apple+.

Inspired by a true-crime story, Black Bird starts off as a two-hander between charming, but full-of-himself Jimmy Keene, played by Taron Egerton (more about him later), who is serving a prison sentence for cocaine smuggling and firearm possession and Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser, also more about him later) who despite confessing of being a serial killer is actually about to get out of prison, as his own personal statements are considered unreliable (he also has a history of false confessions) as well as being mentally “challenged”.

Jimmy is given a chance to slash his sentence, if he transfers to a maximum-security prison and tries to find a way to use his charm to befriend Larry, convince him to open up and confess his crimes, as well as give details about the locations of his alleged victims.

What follows is a tense, tightly edited six hours of some of the best and TV series of the year so far.

The pace might look like is rather relaxed, but this is a real pressure cooker of a series which builds and builds and without ever making a false step, hamming it up or manufacturing tension, becomes as riveting as anything I’ve seen.

Beautifully constructed, without an ounce of fat, a real rarity in an age of bloated tv-series, Black Bird is written Dennis Lehane, the crime novelist behind things like Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone (and a few episodes of The Wire, which probably explains why this is so good).

It has also echoes from True Detective and Mindhunter, but does its own thing and even if the atmosphere may feel familiar, it never falls into cliché, or feels like it re-treading well-known tropes.

It’s also elevated by a truly great cast.

Egerton, who had already wowed us with his transformative performance as Elton John in Rocketman, here he is not just incredibly charismatic, looking all bulked-up and doing a very convincing American accent (at least to my foreign ear), but he perfectly portrays a multi-layered character in all his changes throughout the series, from a bully, cocky and arrogant kid, to a terrified, lonely inmate, to a broken man and more (to elaborate would be considered a spoiler) and he makes him human, real and incredibly powerful.

And yet he is not the best thing in this. Paul Walter Hauser is a real revelation. Well, I say that, but in fact some may recognise him from films like Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell and even the series Cobra Kai. Here he plays a deranged man, who might or might not have raped and murdered teen-age girls. He is sweet and sad at times and then incredibly creepy and terrifying a second later, making him one of the most disturbing and unforgettable characters I’ve seen in years.

All the scenes between him and Egerton, trying to get his trust, just by getting closer and closer and often simply just talking, are absolutely mesmerising and electrifying at the same time.  I had not seen dialogue in a prison so gripping since Hannibal spoke to Clarice back in Silence of the Lambs.

To top it all off, we are also graced by one of Ray Liota’ s final performances, showing a completely new side of him which I had never seen before, just to remind us what a great loss we’ve just suffered.

I cannot recommend it more, especially for those who like prison dramas, true-crime stories and (creepy) characters studies.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.

Black Bird is streaming on Apple+

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

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