REVIEW: Taron Egerton Shines in ‘Black Bird’

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Black Bird Season 1 - But Why Tho

Black Bird launches on Apple TV+ July 8th. A story that was inspired by true events in which a charming and suave convict must elicit details from a suspected serial killer in order to gain his freedom.

The series stars Taron Egerton in the lead role as James Keene and details his life after he is convicted for 10 years as a drug dealer and in possession of several dangerous weapons with the intent to sell. When the FBI offers him a deal that seems too good to be true, Jimmy will put his life on the line to gain his freedom.

Black Bird Season 1 is a dark and gritty story that will immediately catch the attention of true crime fans far and wide. The twist with this story is the central perspective focuses on a convict fighting for his freedom, rather than a detective, or cop looking for essential evidence to put the killer away. In the last decade or so this genre has exploded, capturing an extremely large fan base. From shows such as True Detective, Mind Hunter,  and many, many more. Yet this series doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors.

The story is perfectly suited to play about in this sandbox, but frustratingly it never fully unlocks its darkest potential, which really hampers the tension. The premise and execution are really interesting and there are some superb character performances, however, it doesn’t take those necessary next steps to be a really great must-watch show. Part of the imbalance of the series relates outside of the main plot where the pacing feels slow, and the characters never leave you with the sense of the incredibly high stakes. With a story such as this, there’s a certain expectation for a heavy narrative, with a slow-building tension that grows over the episodes. While that methodical pace is there, it’s too reserved never fully revealing the stakes for you to feel invested.

Where Black Bird really does sing is through the main character of Keene played by Egerton. I’ve been a long-time fan of his, and I was enamored with his performance as Rian in Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance among his many fabulous roles. Egerton plays a charismatic criminal who encourages trust through his mere charming presence. Keene, who is a native of Chicago and the son of a crooked cop, very much knows how to play the game, especially the players around him.

The young English actor fully embraces the cockiness of the character and embodies the swagger of a drug dealer who thinks he’s too big to fail, too successful to be touched. It wasn’t just that side of Egerton, the more compelling pieces of his acting stem from his tortured incarceration in a maximum-security prison for the criminally insane. His conversations with inmates and his micro-reactions reflect the inner fear that any moment could be his last.

This is where the show delivers the best source of tension. You will route for Jimmy Keene and feel that anxiety watching him in the snake pit trying to survive. For all my wants and wishes for Black Bird to step up though, the one place I never found myself wanting was through Egerton’s screen time. He acts circles around everyone on set with him.

Sadly this is simultaneously another place where the show falters as the yang to Jimmy Keene’s yin doesn’t live up to the standard the show deserves. I’m talking of course about the series antagonist, Larry Hall played by Paul Walter Hauser. I’m still very conflicted overall about the delivery given this was inspired by true events and the dubious nature of the plot. Still, I just couldn’t buy into the intimidation of Hauser. He definitely has moments where you’re left thinking, ok now he’s going to turn it on, here comes that moment of pure dread sending shivers down your spine, and it never really came.

This isn’t for a lack of trying on Hauser’s part, he certainly threw himself into the role but his attempts at portraying a man with sociopathic thoughts, and fugue-like states look unbelievable and border on comical. Very simply put, Egerton carries this show and does such a wonderful job of elevating everything around him.

Black Bird Season 1 is an enjoyable series, but in the genre of true crime stories, it underdelivers overall. Taron Egerton however delivers a truly standout performance and for that alone, I’d recommend it. Ultimately though, I found myself wanting more from the larger story, with darker tones, and stronger pacing. Come for Egerton, and if you enjoy anything else it’s a bonus.

Black Bird Season 1 is weekly series available exclusively on Apple TV+ with the first two episodes releasing on July 8th.


Black Bird Season 1
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Black Bird is an enjoyable series, but in the genre of true crime stories, it underdelivers overall. Taron Egerton however delivers a truly standout performance and for that alone, I’d recommend it. Ultimately though, I found myself wanting more from the larger story, with darker tones, and stronger pacing. Come for Egerton, and if you enjoy anything else it’s a bonus.

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