on HBO Premiered Sunday Night January 12, 10:00 p.m.
By Valerie Milano
Pasadena, CA (Hollywood Today) 1/13/14 – True Detective has the cast and aura of a big budget theatrical release. This includes first call music man T-Bone Burnett handling the score and an atmospheric opening credit sequence that struck an appropriate balance between weird, menacing and atmospheric.True Detective is a murder mystery told in flashbacks by the estranged Louisiana State Police homicide team of Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey).
Hart is clearly still an investigator, and is being interviewed by another team of investigators about a case he worked on with Cohle many years previously. We then cut to Rust Cohle being interviewed about the same case. However, we clearly see Cohle is transformed; longhaired, scruffy, drinking heavily and tormented by inner demons.
The crime scene finds Hart and Cohle in a remote Louisiana sugar-cane field ruminating over the murdered body of a young prostitute. A ritual murder with satanic overtones. The type of scene that would haunt even the most grizzled homicide detective and would like make headline news if the details were revealed to the media. Harrelson and McConaughey are a director’s dream team when it comes to a moody, drawl-fest with zippy and profane dialogue like True Detective. Harrelson’s character Martin Hart is a self-described regular guy with a “big-ass dick” and Cohle exists in a different (but parallel) dimension altogether. On the ride home from the murder scene, Hart finally coaxes the anti-social Cohle to divulge his world view and philosophy on life, which is pessimistic, nihilistic, and persuasively eloquent. His partner is immediately sorry he asked and pleads for him shut up and keep his innermost feelings to himself in perpetuity, and further cautions him that rural Louisiana is not good place for heavy philosophizing.
McConaughey is a revelation as he strips away his matinee idol aura and portrays the genius-sociopath Cohle, nicknamed ‘The Taxman’ by his fellow investigators due to his preference for jotting notes and diagrams in a super-sized bound ledger rather than the more conventional note-pad. Cohle is also an alcoholic, insomniac, chain-smoker and (we suspect) a few other things we can’t quite put our finger on. Conversely, Harrelson has his blustering, ‘good old boy’ with a brain shtick down pat. His genius is knowing a sensational performance when he sees one, and teeing it up.
The grisly murder scene put this reviewer on edge and in fear of more blood and brutality. However, the grotesque murder was presented only as a set-up and was just enough, but not too much. At its core, True Detective is a complex, psychological drama that probes the relationship between the two cops, and Cohle’s tortured genius as it rubs up against the prosaic, Christian-based, Deep South culture that represents most aspects of humanity that he detests.
Give writer Nic Pizzolatto credit for being able to get inside the psyche of two diametrically opposite characters and making them believable. Cohle’s depressing squad car soliloquy is a rare thing of beauty that my remote and I will revisit often.
Murder mysteries are pretty thick on the ground these days. Characters as rich as Martin Hart and Rust Cohle are not. Seven more episodes to come. I can’t wait.
True Detective stars Matthew McConaughey, Michelle Monaghan, and Woody Harrelson joined director and executive producer, Cary Fukunaga and Pizzolatto on the panel at TCA’s Winter Press Tour. HBO’s series begins tonight after the first trailer for season 4 of “Game of Thrones” airs.
Writer Pizzolatto expressed views on storytelling, “I think my ideas about a mystery and how to handle these sorts of things just came out of my own sort of ethos and concerns as a writer, more than anything. I mean, one of the reasons I wanted to do an anthology format is I like stories with endings. I like a good third act.” A self-contained story.
Pizzolatto’s ideas seem to please the actors. McConaughey said of the 17 year span the characters range, “One of the great things about this is that the writing was very the identities of the men at these times were very clear; all right? So we didn’t have to do I didn’t have to do a lot of creative wandering in my head. I mean, 17 years one of my favorite things that I got to do with Cohle is go, Who is he in ’95?
The love-fest continued when the panel was asked about being at the top of the film game, and working on television. Harrelson started, “I already worked with HBO on “Game Change.” There’s just no finer organization making amazing stuff out there than HBO. So it’s, like, a privilege to work with them. And, you know, the other part of that is just the people on this stage, you know. I really I love Matthew. He’s my brother. Phenomenal, amazing person. And I love Michelle. I’ve known her many, many years. Cary is a terrific director. And Nic really just wrote this phenomenal script that you just couldn’t put down.”
The first of 8 episodes begins this evening on HBO. But the story lends itself to additional seasons as well. ““True Detective,” is meant to be, of course, purposefully somewhat generic before you even get to the there are deeper indications. The word “true” can also mean honorable and authentic and things like that. But all the previous incarnations of anything titled “True Detective” was an anthology; right? So as long as there is some crime in there, I think the series format can approach it,” finished Pizzolatto.