Apple TV may not pump out the content like other streaming platforms, nor does it have a back catalogue that it can regurgitate at will. Nope, everything Apple TV creates is expertly crafted, including Black Bird.
Starring in Black Bird is the talented Taron Egerton, and his performance begs the question – is there nothing he cannot do? His comedy chops were on display in Kingsman, he embodied Elton John for Rocketman, and he sings like an angel in Sing.
Adding yet another string to his bow, Black Bird sees him in a far more dramatic role and one in which he excels.
What Is Black Bird About?
Black Bird is six-episode crime drama developed by Dennis Lehane. It is based on the 2010 autobiographical novel by James Keene and Hillel Levin called In with the Devil: a Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption.
Jimmy Keene was a high school football star who, instead of going to college, decided to stay at home and grow his business. His drug dealing business.
Successful, charming and making a tonne of cash, everything was going pretty smoothly for Jimmy until he was arrested as part of a wider sting called Operation Snowplow.
Between the drugs and guns, Jimmy was staring at 25 years but was convinced by his father to take a plea deal which they believed would be five years, out on parole in four.
So Jimmy took the deal. And then, the judge gave him 10 years with no parole. Inside and desperate for a way out, he was offered the chance to have his entire sentence commuted.
All he had to do was transfer to a maximum security prison for the criminally insane, befriend an inmate suspected of killing 14 women, and get him to confess to where at least one of the bodies is buried. Get the information, get out of jail.
When Jimmy's father, Big Jim Keene (Ray Liotta) has a stroke, Jimmy realises that he has to take his chances with the FBI and he agrees to go undercover.
The criminal in question is suspected serial killer Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser), a seemingly harmless young man who has a tendency to confess to crimes he did not commit. Except that Detective Brian Miller (Greg Kinnear) fully believes that he actually did rape and murder 14 young girls.
The problem is Hall's appeal is pending and Miller needs something concrete to keep him in prison. So can Jimmy Keene befriend Larry and get what he needs out of him? Or will he end up in prison for ten years?
Black Bird Official Trailer
Is Black Bird Worth Watching?
Black Bird is the kind of crime drama that is made even more shocking by the fact that it is based on actual events.
Even for a true story, the idea that one inmate would be thrown into the lion's den to extract information from another inmate seems totally irresponsible. And that's the angle the story takes.
Jimmy Keene is charming and likeable, qualities he has used to maximum effect both in and out of prison. But his desperation to get released is always bubbling under the surface, and Taron Egerton plays that expertly.
As a viewer, Black Bird is fascinating because the whole way along, you never actually know if Larry Hall is a killer. Keene needs him to be one so he can get out of prison but there's always a little doubt lingering.
So in a strange way you end up rooting for both Jimmy to get the confession and also for Larry hoping that he is innocent. But of course, both things cannot be true. An interesting dilemma for the audience.
Black Bird paces itself brilliantly, starting out with a little tension and ratcheting it up the whole way through the six episodes. The detectives get a lead, then nothing. There's a confession then a recant. Tidbits of information drip slowly into the narrative, building the story until the truth is finally revealed.
It's both a great prison drama and an excellent whodunnit with stellar performances from all the cast particularly Egerton, Hauser and Ray Liotta whose onscreen presence is magnetic.
So if you're looking for an excellent drama with plenty of tension then check out Black Bird on Apple TV+.
Black Bird Cast
Taron Egerton as James “Jimmy” Keene Jr.
Paul Walter Hauser as Larry Dewayne Hall
Sepideh Moafi as Lauren McCauley, an FBI agent
Greg Kinnear as Brian Miller
Ray Liotta as James Keene, Jimmy's father
Jake McLaughlin as Gary Hall, Larry's brother
Tony Amendola as Vincent Gigante, a mob boss in prison with Jimmy