Review by C.J. Bunce
You know Kevin Hart because of his big laughs in stand-up comedy, and as a comedic actor who over 20 years moved from supporting roles to starring in great movies like the Jumanji series. But you probably haven’t seen him lean so much into his dramatic side as you’ll find in the new one-season Netflix series, True Story. In seven episodes Hart takes the audience inside the world of a comedy icon that is a mirror of his real life, if that life were blindsided by a manipulative brother and a string of murders. Add in top genre actors like Wesley Snipes and Theo Rossi and you have a huge winner.
In the series Hart is known only as the Kid, and everyone everywhere has heard of him. He’s back for some comedy performances and celebrity appearances in his (and Hart’s) hometown of Philadelphia. He has a small ensemble of trusted caretakers who make sure he gets places and gets his job done. That’s manager Todd (Paul Adelstein), bodyguard Herschel (William Catlett), and Billie the writer (Tawny Newsome). They are all quite aware of the trouble the Kid gets into when he’s back home with his brother Carlton, played by Wesley Snipes (with an endless supply of cool jackets).
Carlton has a restaurant always in debt and always in need of help. Carlton is jealous of the Kid and manipulative–the Kid’s crew see through this and try to protect the Kid, but he remains loyal to his brother. The Kid just has his first billion dollar movie, a superhero flick called Anti-verse (which we would really like to see!). Knowing this, and knowing he owes some local crime brothers $600,000, Carlton has options, and it’s how he pursues collecting the $600,000 from his brother that sets everything into motion.
But first, out on a binger with his brother, the Kid wakes up with a dead woman in his bed. To get rid of the body, Carlton calls a friend–a cleaner in the mob sense–to take care of things. Then the cleaner (played by Billy Zane) wants a big pay-off to keep his mouth shut. From there it’s an exciting ride as viewers follow the Kid (and the show’s writers) as they both get him in deeper and try to get him out.
Along the way Theo Rossi appears as the Kid’s biggest fan. His story is tragic and sympathetic, and Rossi, who was a high point of Marvel’s Luke Cage, gives another award-worthy performance. Rossi is simply incredible. Snipes continues the upward momentum of his comeback after his lauded performances in Dolemite is My Name and Coming 2 America.
But the big wow is Kevin Hart. He has this believable nature, this honesty and sincerity that comes through in his live performances. And it makes him a perfect straight man in movies like Central Intelligence and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Hart will leave his fans thinking his real life as a celebrity–constantly moving from town to town and juggling chats with the rich and famous with appearances on every major prime time show–is just like what he delivers in True Story. It’s clear many scenes were plucked from his travels, like a cringey encounter with a fan on an airplane. (Hopefully minus the murder part).
Next up for Hart is an expected movie version of Hasbro’s Monopoly game, a remake of the John Candy and Dan Aykroyd comedy The Great Outdoors, and the action comedy The Man from Toronto with Woody Harrelson.
As a crime thriller, count this one as a quick binge series that is entirely worth your time. Catch all seven episodes of True Story now streaming on Netflix.