Apple TV Plus has been on a roll this year, releasing great series like Severance and Pachinko. Now, another acclaimed show is hitting the service. The true crime thriller Black Bird is one of our picks for what to watch in July and currently has a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab).
Black Bird features the last TV performance by the late Ray Liotta, who died in May. Crime novelist Dennis Lehane, who developed the limited series, called Liotta “the most electric American actor of his generation.”
Lehane wrote the role of policeman Big Jim Keene specifically for the star of notable films like Goodfellas and Field of Dreams and Emmy winner for a guest stint on ER.
Speaking of Emmys, Black Bird and its stars may be on the shortlists next year in the limited series categories. Here’s everything you need to know about the show, which begins streaming July 8 with an Apple TV Plus subscription. (opens in new tab)
What is Black Bird about?
Black Bird is based on James Keen’s 2010 autobiographical novel In With The Devil: A Fallen Hero, A Serial Killer, and A Dangerous Bargain for Redemption.
It was adapted by Dennis Lehane, a crime novelist who has seen four of his books turned into feature films: 2003’s Mystic River, directed by Clint Eastwood; 2007’s Gone Baby Gone by Ben Affleck; 2010’s Shutter Island by Martin Scorsese; and 2016’s Live by Night, also by Affleck.
The story, inspired by actual events, follows Jimmy Keene (Taron Egerton), a former high school football hero and the son of decorated policeman James “Big Jim” Keene (Ray Liotta). A few wrong turns has led Jimmy to a 10-year sentence in prison.
However, a prosecutor gives him a choice: He can service his full sentence in minimum security or enter a maximum security facility for the criminally insane in order to befriend suspected serial killer Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser).
Keene’s mission is to elicit a confession and find out the locations where several young girls’ bodies are buried — all before the chance that Hall’s appeal goes through. Not only is the clock ticking, but Keene himself could get killed.
Black Bird reviews
Black Bird is currently at 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 18 reviews. That rating may change as more reviews flow in from critics.
Ben Travers at IndieWire (opens in new tab) says the show “works quite well as a tense, cat-and-mouse thriller. That it’s a true story adds extra pop to the many dialogue scenes.”
AV Club’s Saloni Gajjar (opens in new tab) calls it “one of the most engrossing true-crime dramas of the year,” highlighting “a pointed, disturbing script; nearly flawless performances by Taron Egerton, Paul Walter Hauser, and the late Ray Liotta; and an ability to build tension and curiosity at a swift pace.”
Abby Cavenaugh at Collider (opens in new tab) writes, “It’s the top-notch performances that really make this series soar above the others in the true crime genre,” adding, “This performance shows why Liotta was an acting legend, and will be remembered as such for many years to come.”
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Chris Vognar (opens in new tab) notes, “Great writing often begets great acting, and the new Apple TV+ limited series Black Bird has plenty of both.”
Cassondra Feltus at Black Girl Nerds (opens in new tab) says, “If you’re still trying to fill the Mindhunter-sized hole left after its cancellation, look no further” than Black Bird.