Black Bird review: Taron Egerton charms in true story crime drama
Posted by  badge Boss on Jul 12
The Rocketman star plays a charismatic hunk with a knack for crime – and teasing out a confession (Picture: Alfonso Bresciani/ Apple TV)

Can you buy the idea that could charm the birds from the trees?

That just by chatting chummily to a suspected serial killer he could tease out a confession?

As plotlines go it’s something of a stretch, but that’s what Black Bird perches on.

What helps immeasurably with the plausibility factor is that Black Bird is based on a true story.

Writer Dennis Lehane has picked up on a 2010 autobiography by James Keene and turned it into a cat and mouse prison drama that strikes a deal with the devil and, against the odds, turns out to have a winning hand.

And a lot of that is down to Egerton, who plays US high school football hero turned big-money drug dealer Jimmy Keene, a charismatic hunk whose easy charm, we are led to believe, disarms everyone he meets.

The exception being Jimmy’s Dad (a moving turn from the late Ray Liotta), a retired police officer haunted by guilt at the way Jimmy has turned out.

Egerton plays real-life Jimmy Keene (Picture: Apple TV)
The late Ray Liotta gives a moving turn as Jimmy’s Dad (Picture: Apple TV)

It’s a fine line between smarm and charm but Egerton balances on that tightrope like a pro and, before you know it, we’re swallowing the idea that the FBI might do a deal and sign him up as an undercover operator.

The buffed-up Egerton plays Jimmy on the cool side of cocky and it works.

The deal in question is perhaps the most peculiar part of Black Bird. Keene, who’d been handed a ten-year sentence for drug and firearm offences, is offered the chance to walk free if he can get suspect Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser) to ‘fess up to a killing spree.

Let’s just say that sounds like a morally dubious ends justifying the means rule bender.

It happened though and it’s in the claustrophobic confines of a maximum-security prison that, ironically, Black Bird flies highest.

The verbal back and forth between Keene and Hall is streaked with the cold sweat of tension, cat turning mouse before our eyes. What makes us good and what makes us bad is a big question but that’s the song Black Bird is singing.

Streaming now on Apple TV+.