Kevin Hart and Wesley Snipes Bring Serious Drama to the Absurd Thrills of Netflix’s ‘True Story’
Good performances can truly save the most absurd plot. In Netflix’s seven-episode limited series “True Story,” believability and absurdity work together with strong performances from Kevin Hart and Wesley Snipes. Much of it is due to the fact that both actors are playing characters not too far off from their own lifestyles, at least in the sense of being famous and wealthy. This also makes it a fascinatingly entertaining show, even as the plot spirals into levels of guilty pleasure soap opera. For Hart it could serve as a good calling card for when he feels tempted to take on even more challenging roles.
Hart plays the Kid, a famous comedian and actor who has just scored his first billion-dollar hit with a superhero movie. While doing the usual press rounds and tours, Kid also deals with his older brother, Carlton (Snipes), whom he’s helped try to get settled. But Carlton is not the settling down type. He likes the clubs and hard-drinking posse, egging Kid to join him for some partying. Kid then wakes up one morning with a dead girl in bed and naturally panics. Not to worry, Carlton knows someone who can help them cover up this little mess. In comes Ari (Billy Zane), who looks rather shady, but he helps the brothers dispose of the dead woman. There is a catch, of course, and he wants $6 million from Kid for his silence. Not one to part with his riches, Kid kills Ari. Alas, this creates a whole other level of problems, since Ari belonged to a Greek mafia clan Carlton owes lots of money to.
The engaging appeal of watching “True Story” is in how Hart and Snipes click so well. Hart is essentially playing a double of his own self but trapped within a murder scandal. Moments brim with autobiographical authenticity when Kid talks business with his manager, Todd (Paul Adelstein) or deals with writer Billie (Tawny Newsome), who keeps getting irritated when her material is cut out from Kid’s show. Obnoxious fans will make racially idiotic jokes on airplanes, almost inspiring a punch from Kid’s chief bodyguard, Herschel (William Catlett). There is little doubt when we see Kid handle business, fans and associates, with a mix of seriousness and friendliness, that this is how the man truly operates. That he stays at the Four Seasons Philadelphia without having to pay the $5,000 a night price tag is also easy to believe. Hart pulls it off in front of the camera with total ease, without having to even resort to jokes. He turns Kid into a real person, and we sense a truer interpretation of who he is behind the scenes. There’s also hilarious industry satire in how Kid stars in a generic superhero blockbuster co-starring “Thor” lead Chris Hemsworth. We get a peek at the movie “Anti-Verse,” which looks like a bad combination of “X-Men” and “Tenet.”
Wesley Snipes shows off his capacity for playing both sincere and malevolent. His character, Carlton, truly cares for his brother but has a bad habit of becoming involved with corrupt, violent types. He wants to get wealth the easy way and enjoy the perks, while Kid loves his craft and works hard at it. Their dynamic builds to some moments of genuine tension. Much of it gets diluted by the murder plot itself. As a standard thriller, “True Story” is entertaining enough with Kid and Carlton scheming on how to get rid of a body or form an alibi and make excuses to the Greeks. Some effective twists seem small then lead to bigger problems, as when Kid agrees to pay off Carlton’s debt to the gangsters, but they want cash, not wires. Backstage a fan will corner Kid and reveal he shot something damning on his cell phone, right before Kid has to hit the stage. With all this there are lots of industry insights into daily life with fame and major finances. When Ari wonders why Kid is so hesitant to pay since he’s rich, Kid gives an insightful explanation for how the more money you have, the more complicated life becomes. It’s the kind of moment that stands out in a plot that would be too wild to believe if it wasn’t so efficiently pulled off. “True Story” as a show never rises above a guilty pleasure, but it proves Hart can aim higher as an artist.
“True Story” begins streaming Nov. 24 on Netflix.