Is “True Story” fact or fiction?
I think that is the question foremost on everyone’s mind after watching the 7-part Netflix series, which dominated the Top 10 in South Africa Today list since it debuted on the streaming platform.
Kevin Hart and Wesley Snipes helming the crime thriller was incentive enough to watch the show.
Before delving into the series, though, do note that it isn’t based on a real-life story although it does include certain truths about Hart that sells the fictionalised narrative.
Hart does have an older brother, who, despite dabbling in criminal activities in his misspent youth has turned his life around, and, for a brief period, they had a tenuous relationship.
Also, Hart was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Eric Newman (“Narcos” and “Narcos: Mexico” fame) is the showrunner of “True Story”.
And he allows his imagination to run rampant as he explores the psychological and emotional stress of an unfortunate situation in the life of the world-famous comedian and actor Kid (Hart).
In the first episode, which is titled “The King of Comedy”, one gets a compelling sense of who Kid is.
He says: “If you are asking if I was surprised, I don’t know. Maybe I was.
“I mean you think you know someone just because you had been through shit together or because you came up together.
“But to actually know what’s going on inside a person’s head or in their heart, I mean, you can’t know that. You can’t.
“People think they know me because I made them laugh or because they have been to a show but they don’t know what I did to get here or what it takes to stay here. When a person’s back is against the wall, they gotta do whatever they can to keep from losing whatever they got.
“That’s when you get to see who a person is or what they are capable of.
“You know that about someone, well then maybe then you can say that you know.
“But then again, you know that, maybe you wouldn’t want to.”
Thereafter, the storyline shifts to a week prior with Kid making a guest appearance on “Ellen” ahead of his worldwide comedy tour, which kicks off in his hometown, Philadelphia.
It’s also where he reconnects with his brother Carlton (Snipes), who has been leeching off him for the longest time.
Of course, Kid is accompanied by his entourage, which includes bodyguard Herschel (William Catlett), manager Todd (Paul Adelstein) and writer Billie (Tawny Newsome).
Things snowball in utter bedlam after the first concert and a night of hard partying.
Kid hooks up with a groupie, who ends up dead in his bed.
Carlton gets fixer Ari (Billy Zane), who is part of a Greek mafia family that includes his brothers Nikos (John Ales) and Savvas (Chris Diamantopoulos), to take care of the body.
But when Ari tries to extort $6 million from Kid, he snaps and strangles him.
Things spiral out of control after Carlton and Kid dispose of the body.
They work hard to throw suspicion off themselves when Ari’s brothers come sniffing around for information on him, especially with Carlton heavily in debt to them.
Meanwhile, Gene (Theo Rossi), a die-hard fan, unwittingly finds himself embroiled in the cover-up when he follows Kid.
Newman does an incredible job of embodying the world of showbiz.
He homes in on the highs as well as the lows with painstaking attention to detail as to how tricky it can be to juggle everything as a celebrity.
Hart, who also wears the hat of executive producer, kills it with his performance. While comedy is a natural extension of who he is – and he has myriad action and romantic comedies to corroborate this - I think viewers are going to be blown away by his dramatic departure in the series.
Of course, Snipes is a natural in front of the camera and his chemistry with Hart doesn’t go amiss.
Hart is, of course, in his element on stage, oozing star clout and immense charm. He’s likeable. When it comes to public appearances and media interviews, he handles them with aplomb.
However, the stress of having to deal with the cover-up sees Kid spiral out of control, more so after he learns a shocking truth that makes him question everything.
The crime aspect of “True Story” might not impress viewers much.
After all, it is a big ask of the writer to expect viewers will suspend their belief and accept the “How to Get Away with Murder”-esque ending.
But Hart really does steal the show with his performance, where he straddles a fine line between restrained and unruly behaviour with commendable dexterity.