There is chemistry between the actors, who are working together for the first time, but the pedestrian writing in this Cain and Abel riff lets her down.
The Netflix limited series “True Story” is a starting point for star Kevin Hart in his television drama debut, as he struggles with material that is darker than his usual style. It’s a commendable risk on your part that it doesn’t fully exploit its potential to be a thoroughly riveting episode with a deep message that you probably think it is. As Hart and his co-star Wesley Snipes, in their first on-screen showdown, form a high-octane duo, the script betrays that effort with uninspired writing from series creator, writer, and showrunner Eric Newman (“Narcos: Mexico”). that does not make the dark his ally and leans too much for the conveniences of the plot and a predictability that mutes the suspense.
The series begins with Hart as the main character Kid, sitting down, breaking the fourth wall, as he puts it, with dramatic urgency: “People think they know me because I make them laugh or because they’ve been on a show. But they don’t know what I did to get here or what it takes to stay here. When a person is against the wall and has to do everything possible not to lose what he has, that is when you can see who that person is. Or what they are capable of. “
This apology cuts to a title card that branches off to form a labyrinth with an intricate design, hinting at what to expect from the seven roughly 40-minute episodes of “True Story.”
In the role of Kid, Hart reverts to playing a version of himself: a wealthy comedian and superstar actor, who successfully co-father with an ex. On the verge of making a billion dollars at the box office in a superhero movie titled “Anti-verse” (in which he co-stars with Chris Hemsworth), Kid, a recovering alcoholic, is enjoying his greatest success as he embarks on a national comedy. tour, with a stop in his hometown of Philadelphia. After a night out in which his sobriety is put to the test, Kid becomes the center of an extortion scam that leaves several corpses in its wake, and a beleaguered Kid, as his introductory monologue reveals, does what you think you have to do to be able to hold onto what you have.
Alongside the ride is Kid’s minimal entourage, starting with his older brother, Carlton (Wesley Snipes), his manager Todd (Paul Adelstein), bodyguard Herschel (William Catlett), and chief writer Billie (Tawny Newsome). On the surface, everyone seems to prioritize Kid’s interests and well-being, until a sequence of events calls into question the ethical compasses of various characters.
Carlton is the underachieving older brother who is cashing in on Kid’s fame, whose motivations are initially unclear, but there are suggestions early on (his sneaky glances at Kid, his unresponsive ringing cell phone, and other suspicious behaviors ) that he is even possibly nefarious. And while Todd cares for his client, he is aggressive in pressuring Kid to sign up for an “Anti-Verse” sequel despite Kid’s initial ambivalence, a move that also serves Todd’s self-interest. And Herschel is overprotective of Kid, almost like the brother Kid would have wanted, but he’s secretly sleeping with Billie, and he asks Kid a questionable question in the ending.
Key supporting roles include Gene (Theo Rossi), Kid’s possibly emotionally unstable number one fan, whose performance immediately reveals the far more important role he will play in his idol’s life. John Ales and Chris Diamantopoulos play brothers Nikos and Savvas, vengeful Greek gangsters whose streak of violence is depicted so graphically that it confuses the series. It is possible to tell a haunting and uncompromising story without blood.
Rounding out the gangster trio is his brother Ari (a bearded Billy Zane), a con man whose latest “job” has fatal consequences.
There’s an added story about Billie, Kid’s talented lead writer, feeling underrated and wanting to pursue a career of her own as a comedian, as a young black girl in a male-dominated field. It is a worthy rope that was left hanging.
The foundation of the series, and what it qualifies as its bottom line, is the fickle relationship between Kid and Carlton, and there is chemistry between Hart and Snipes, in a Cain and Able fable that subverts its title. Kid clearly loves his disturbing older brother unconditionally and protects him, despite his many gaffes, which he is often asked to fix. On the other hand, Carlton’s love comes with conditions. He takes advantage of Kid’s fame without shame, and seems to justify it with a jealousy that is not fully developed.
The volatility in their kinship subsides from episode to episode, and it soon becomes clear that this is a doomed relationship. Borrowing from “Zola,” the 2020 drama based on a Twitter thread, “True Story” may also have opened the first episode with, “Wanna hear a story about how my older brother and I got into a fight? long but full of suspense “.
Carlton is, for all intents and purposes, a sociopath and it’s easy to despise him long before the series ends, which is probably what creator Newman needed to ensure for obvious reasons. But it’s a lesson Kid has to learn for himself, despite his team’s efforts to distance him from Carlton. Kid’s shirt is certainly not clean either, even though he doesn’t pay as high a price as the others.
“I should have done what I was supposed to do; stay fucking sober, ”he laments in the second half of the series. It feels more like an expression of regret than actual pain as the central figure in a series of events that leave many lives destroyed, literally and figuratively. It feels undeserved. The consequences increase with each new complication, further complicating previous complications as Kid makes one bad decision after another. He’s probably meant to be drawn as an antihero, and that may have been successful if the character, as written, didn’t seem so self-righteous. It also doesn’t help that Kid is a version of Hart (or vice versa), and their lives and personalities intertwine. The cameos of Hart’s famous friends Ellen DeGeneres and Chris Hemsworth, as well as the real-life references to Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie, only further this. Kid’s (and somehow Hart) “I’m just human and nobody’s perfect” retort to the scandal doesn’t quite satisfy, especially when other humans end up dead.
There’s a sharper series hidden in the “True Story” script that assumes its audience is just as sharp, and would enjoy a puzzle, with a message about humbly facing the consequences of the decisions we make; or a go-cheap take on what unbridled capitalism breeds in a world where every character is driven almost entirely by greed.
But the desired message to be conveyed seems to be that fame is not easy. Or, to quote a Notorious BIG single that surprisingly isn’t included as a needle drop in this nose-heavy series, “Mo Money Mo Problems.”
Netflix will release all seven episodes of “True Story” on Wednesday, November 24.