True Detective, Sky Atlantic, Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson PREVIEW

Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey, True Detective, Sky Atlantic
Trailer parks and pop-up churches – detectives Hart and Cohle canvass for clues. Pics: Sky Atlantic

Rating: ★★★★½

Sky Atlantic: starts Saturday, 22 February, 9pm

Story: 1995 – Detectives Martin Hart and Rust Cohle, partners in Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division, are assigned to a macabre murder by a killer with disturbing occult leanings. In 2012, a similar case leads to the investigation being re-opened…

WOWSER –  a new series from HBO. In contemporary TV terms, the people that brought you The Sopranos, The Wire and Game of Thrones, are definitely the gold standard.

Not that HBO is perfect (don’t mention John from Cincinnati, Tell Me You Love Me, 12 Miles of Bad Road) – but when it gets a drama right, it’s appointment viewing.

Woody Harrelson as Detective Hart, True Detective, Sky Atlantic
Woody Harrelson as Hart in 1995

True Detective is a bullseye. It has two of Hollywood’s most interesting actors, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, in a rich and engrossing eight-parter.

While at it’s core it is a whodunit, True Detective – like ITV’s excellent Broadchurch last year – is far superior to those clapped-out series that start with a corpse and proceed with half-dead characters asking, Where were you on the night of the 14th?

It is the story of two men, detectives Martin Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey), with a grisly crime as the backdrop.

Hart is an average guy, Cohle is deep and aloof

Matthew McConaughey as Cohle, True Detective, Sky Atlantic
Matthew McConaughey as Cohle in 2012

Hart and Cohle are not buddies. As Hart says, ‘You don’t pick your parents and you don’t pick your partner.’

Hart is a normal guy, stressed by his job, with a wife and kids, average outlook on life. Cohle is deep, aloof, voicing opinions about people being wrong to think they are somebody, when in fact they are nothing and should stop reproducing.

Watching Hart and Cohle just driving in a car is one of the drama’s lighter moments. ‘I just wish you would stop saying shit like, “This is someone’s memory of a town,”‘ moans Hart.

Investigating a grisly murder

Michelle Monaghan as Maggie Hart, True Detective, Sky Atlantic
Michelle Monaghan as Maggie Hart

The thing is, we know what Cohle means, and Hart can’t help but admire the partner he can’t get along with. The low-rent Louisana town where they are digging for clues really looks like a washed-out memory.

It is the murder of a prostitute, found posed in a field with occult props, that bonds and tests the partners. The narrative splits revealingly between 1995, the year of the murder, 2002, and 2012, when a similar crime occurs and the two investigators, who now haven’t seen each other for 10 years, are interviewed about the original case.

By then, Cohle has long hair and a serious booze habit, and Hart is chubby and talks with a sneaking sense of loss about his former partner.

Written by Nic Pizzolatto

The setting is bleak and forbidding, the characters look like normal people (the cops mostly all overweight), and the story is fascinating and compelling.

Written by novelist Nic Pizzolatto, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (Jane Eyre), True Detective is also produced by its two leading stars and feels like a project they’re really invested in.

When there is so much crime drama dross around, it’s great that HBO can still pull-off a quality show that takes you on a journey with characters who grip you by the lapels.

Cast: Matthew McConaughey Rust Cohle, Woody Harrelson Martin Hart, Michelle Monaghan Maggie Hart,  Michael Potts Det. Maynard Gilbough, Tory Kittles Papania, Bruce Elliott Trustee-Levi, Madison Wolfe Audrey Hart, Randal Gonzalez Detective Gonzalez, David Stephen Mitchell Promise Keeper, Eric Price Detective Shinn

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