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True Detective (2014)

HBO Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/10/2014

All Ratings out of


Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/20/2014

Trust me when I say that I love reviewing movies and TV shows on Blu-ray Discs and DVDs. Years of this has taught me a lot about delayed gratification... entertainment-wise. As I'm always watching something to review, I rarely go to the theater to see movies and I often make a conscious decision to skip a TV show when it's originally broadcast, opting instead to wait for the inevitable home video release when I can watch it in one big chunk. And while I do a good job of avoiding spoilers, the drawback of all of this is that it can be difficult ignoring the reaction to something when it is initially available. Be it hype or a drubbing, I can't filter out every tidbit if a film or show is receiving a great deal of press. Thus, I went into True Detective actually knowing very little about the show, save for the fact that viewers and critics simply loved it. Would I have a similar reaction?

True Detective tells a story which spans decades. It opens in 2012, where Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) are interviewed (separately) about an investigation they had participated in 17 years earlier. In 1995, Hart and Cohle were newly partnered detectives with the Louisiana state police. They were called to a crime scene in which the female victim had been decorated with a set of antlers. Their investigation took them around the area, as they chased leads involving political leaders and religious organizations. At the same time, the case was having an effect on their lives. Hart had a wife (Michelle Monaghan) and two daughters at home, but he was also prone to keeping a mistress. Cohle had previously worked undercover in narcotics and his drug use, along with his unique outlook on life, made him a socially awkward person. The story follows these men over the years as we see how the job took a toll on their working and personal relationships and how the title refers to the fact that some cases are never closed.

Again, going into True Detective the details which I had were relegated that I'd seen some headlines praising it and Seth Myers really wanted to discuss the finale on his show. These reactions, especially Myers, created some specifics expectations as I sat down to watch the show. As many have noted, both Harrelson and McConaughey do fantastic jobs here. Hart wants to appear laid back, but he's actually wound pretty tight and Woody does a great job of walking this line. Cohle is introspective and philosophical, and is prone to speeches which wind there way around the subject. While one might expect McConaughey to play this like some sort of stoner, he goes for more of a "1000 yard stare" performance, exchanging manic energy for a stillness which belies deep-seated problems. I also liked the fact that Hart and Cohle rarely saw eye-to-eye, which is a nice change from the buddy-cop shows where conflict is kept to a minimum. Unlike most TV series which uses a variety of directors, all eight shows were helmed by Cary Fukunaga, which gives True Detective a very consistent look and feel.

But, outside of those attributes, True Detective didn't come across as especially special or original. Those who have claimed that the show is unique must not have been around the block many times, as it's very reminiscent of Seven, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal. (In fact, the crime scene look exactly like something from Hannibal. I'm not sure which was made first.) The fact that the story takes place over 17 years certainly makes it somewhat different, not enough to hail it as something which is totally new. As a procedural, this is pretty standard stuff. The story certainly ebbs and flows, and while the first few episodes are interesting, the show certainly dips in the middle, with the "undercover" episode being the low point. (I felt that the show really got away from its core at that point.)

The investigation aside, the show also explores how one case affects the lives of these two men, in addition to issues and personality traits they had before becoming partners. Again, there is nothing all that shocking here either. Hart is a philanderer and Cohle is simply out there, and their behavior rarely deviates from what we would expect. Michelle Monaghan is very good as Hart's long-suffering wife, and her reaction to his behaviors are par for the course.

My immediate reaction was that True Detective simply wasn't what I'd expected. The title refers to pulpy magazines of the past, but this really isn't noir. Given Seth Myers' reaction to the finale, I'd expected some sort of big twist, but that didn't happen. If anything, the finale makes one realize just how many loose ends the show had. No, what I found with True Detective was a very well-made show which doesn't break the mold. I guess if you've never seen another detective movie, it make be groundbreaking, but it didn't bring anything new to my table. What it did create was a hope that more actors like Harrelson and McConaughey will want to devote this kind of time to TV.

True Detective suddenly dons a British accent on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of HBO Home Entertainment. The three-Disc set contains all eight episodes of the show. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain at times and no defects from the source materials. Given the subject matter, I'd expected more grain, but the image here is pretty clean. Likewise, things don't get dark like one would expect and the colors look fine. The image shows a nice amount of detail and the depth shines through in the many landscape shots. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely done and they really stand out in the exterior scenes. The show good separation and portray sounds coming from off-screen. The big action scene in Episode 4 really delivers on the surround sound and the subwoofer effects, placing us in the middle of the action.

The True Detective Blu-ray Disc has special features spread across the three Discs. We get "Inside the Episode" for all eight episodes. These give an overview of the episode and contain interviews with Fukunaga and Pizzolatto, who discuss the stories and the themes. Disc 1 also has a DELETED SCENE from Episode 3 which runs about 6 minutes. Disc 2 has AUDIO COMMENTARIES for "Who Goes There" (Pizzolatto and Composer T Bone Burnett) and "The Secrete Fate of All Life" (Pizzolatto, Burnett, and Executive Producer Scott Stephens). The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 3. "Making True Detective" (15 minutes) looks at the show' story, the characters, the adaptation of the script, the filming of the undercover shootout scene, shooting on location, and the look of the show. This is done through on-set footage and many comments from the cast and creative team. We get a DELETED SCENE from Episode 8 which runs about 4 minutes. "Up Close with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson" (8 minutes) offers four segments in which the two actors are interviewed and discuss certain aspects of the show. "A Conversation with Nic Pizzolatto and T Bone Burnett" (14 minutes) allows the writer and composer to talk about how the score and the story tied together.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long