As Hollywood movies become increasingly shallow, offering only few truly challenging parts, an increasing number of actors take refuge in television products. With the dramatic increase in quality and production values, along with increasingly diverse subjects, oftentimes TV productions offer the more attractive parts and challenges. With "True Detective," HBO is dishing out a show with two Hollywood stars in the lead who both full marquee names, yet decided to throw themselves into this project. And boy, are we glad they did.
Partially told as a retrospective, "True Detective" begins with the discovery of a grizzly murder. In rural Louisiana, a young girls has been killed and left, tied to a tree, surrounded by strange fetishes. The murder has a distinctive ritualistic feel to it, and the two case detectives Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) are instantly struggling to find proper leads, sensing that this will be a tough case to crack.
Thrown together as partners, Hart and Cohle could not be more different from each other. While Hart is a family man with an occasional spouse on the side, Cohle is damaged goods. A former deep-undercover Narcotics detective, Cohle has been fighting his own drug addictions in the past and carries with him the damage it caused, both physically and mentally. At the same time, he is an incredibly smart and pragmatic man who sees things for what they are. His excessively analytical nature rubs Hart the wrong way on every occasion, however, os the two detectives have a truly hard time getting on without throttling each others' necks. Yet at the same time, the complement each other, and working as a team they do produce some results, despite the obscure nature of the murder and the lack of leads. And yet, they would never expect that it would take them 17 years to solve the case and take them to the brink of the darkest evil mankind has to offer.
The thing that is instantly striking with "True Detective" is the tone. This show looks and feel different than anything on TV. The narrative is jumping between the present and past, the characters are incredibly rich and dimensional, and the world the show plays in is dark and gritty, oozing with menace. At the heart of it all is the cast, however, and Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey play as if their lives depended on it. For both actors, these may be the most intense and prolific parts they have played in their careers. Gone is McConaughey's sunny-boy smile; replaced by a pensive character with a mind that races at the speed of light. Thought-provoking in nature, not afraid of confrontation and incredibly lonesome at the core, his portrayal of Rust Cohle is so complex and facetted that watching him is perhaps the most fascinating part of the show.
But the same is true for Woody Harrelson. With a maturity and no-nonsense attitude that makes his comical character on "Cheers" a green-tinted memory, he projects a character that is every bit as layered as his partner, yet lives in a completely different world.
And then there is the story. Through the ominous swamp-laden bayous of Louisiana, the story is as ripe with sickness as the swamp itself. At first we only sense that there is something bad happening, but as the story unfolds and takes its toll on the charcaters, the sense of dread grows until it reaches epic proportions towards the film's finale. As you watch the last episodes of the show, the almost inhuman darkness is overwhelming and almost tangible, and it is probably no accident that the final episodes reminded me a lot of a Lucio Fulci film in terms of its stark lighting and color palette. There is something brooding that is so evil that is beyond description, beyond comprehension. And the most frightening part of it is, that it could be real. Is real, in fact, in some part of this country, as people who are just batshit crazy are roaming free.
HBO Home Entertainment is presenting "True Detective" on three DVDs here. Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to take a look at the high definition Blu-Ray version of the release, but even the DVD release looks wonderful with an image that reproduces the dark grittiness of the show perfectly in every frame. With rich colors and deep blacks, the transfer is absolutely clean and free of blemishes or defects.
The audio, presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital is also solid, with an active surround field that brings the show to life and helps to build ambiance for the story's setting.
As extras, the release also contains a number of featurettes, looking at the making of the show, while also featuring extensive interviews with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as they discuss the show and their characters.
You will also find commentary tracks on the release, as well as a selection of deleted scenes.
"True Detective" is mesmerizing and unsettling. Frightening and thought-provoking. It touches upon many aspects that make people tick and pulls away the veneer to reveal what's underneath. It is a true classic and a show you simply cannot afford to miss!