by Steve Lancaster 8/26/17
True Detective is available on Amazon or as part of your HBO subscription. • True Detective should be much better than it is. I had previously avoided watching this 2-season series. In part, because I dislike Woody Harrelson as an actor. I find him one-dimensional and stiff. In that regard True Detective, was a minor surprise. Harrelson is not as wooden and stiff as in other movies; like No Country for Old Men, Planet of the Apes, and the Hunger Games, to mention a few.
McConaughey, on the other hand, almost always develops a complex character, struggling with his own demons and not always winning. He has made better movies; Interstellar, Dallas Buyer’s Club and Lincoln Lawyer come to mind. The primary writer is Nic Pizzolatto a Louisiana native with credits for the Magnificent 7, crime novels and short stories. My deciding factor was Pizzolatto had taught literature at the University of Arkansas. And, a well written crime story is hard for me to resist.
However, it was mixed feelings that I started True Detective. The first episode and others following until about half way though are composed of flashbacks and flash forwards, at first it is a little fragmented. The flashbacks cover a time period of about 20 years. From the time Detective Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Detective Marty Hart (Harrelson) are pared as partners to their current endeavors as private citizens. Cohle is a part-time bartender and working alcoholic and Hart is a PI.
Cohle and Hart are interviewed in the current time about a previous case they had worked on and thought to have solved involving cult-like serial murders in the low country around Baton Rouge LA. As the story develops we learn that Cohle had been an undercover narcotics agent in Texas and was hired by Louisiana State Police when his cover was blown. He is presented as the cerebral part of the partnership, called the “accountant” by other detectives because he is so straight. One suspects that the rigidness of Cohle is the after effect of PTSD. Hart is much more gregarious and well respected by his fellow detectives and superiors.
The case involves the murder of a woman. The woman has been tied to a tree in a cane field in ritual fashion, kneeling with symbols drawn on her naked body and antlers tied to her head. Even for Louisiana this is considered a bit odd. The investigation, still involving flashbacks and flash forwards, takes the detectives to the fringes of Cajun and rural culture. We’re not talking the good old boys of Swamp People, alligator hunters like Troy Landry. But the hardened people who never leave the swamp and are not friendly to anyone from off.
The case also has leads to some of the political and social elite of Louisiana, however, that part of the investigation seems to be going nowhere. As the middle episodes expand the investigation focuses is on a previously convicted criminal and relative of a local sheriff. As the story progresses the detectives develop a case and attempt to arrest the perp. That effort has consequences, they find children hidden in a barn. Hart is so outraged at how the children have been abused and readied for sacrifice that he executes the perp when Cohle has him handcuffed.
The detectives, cover the murder by staging an elaborate shoot-out in which the perp is killed. Their reports are similar enough and the perp nauseating enough to close the case. The last part of the series deals with current day, no more flashbacks.
As the police interviews end for Hart and Cohle, both realize that there are strings to this case that they did not pursue. They partner up, this time under Hart’s license as a PI. They again follow leads that travel to the upper crust of political and business in Louisiana. They find a perp, with ties to this upper crust and ties to the crimes. Both men are wounded bringing the perp to the law and the perp dies in the resulting shoot out, this time justified. However, we are left with the feeling that much more could be investigated, but won’t.
On the plus side both detective’s characters are developed and altered by the events of this story. Hart becomes more analectic and less emotional Cohle retreats into a bottle, showing more symptoms of PTSD. That they can team up in the present day is remarkable and demonstrates some excellent writing. On the minus side. Well, it’s always the rich and powerful that get away with it, isn’t it? However, it was overall a good crime story, well written and acted.
The second season changes the location to LA in the present day with Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell. Harrelson and McConaughey are listed as producers. I watched 3 episodes just to get a feel. In a word, terrible. It is a waste of photons on your 48” big screen. • (428 views)