"Netflix’s limited series True Story is a departure for star Kevin Hart in his television drama debut, as he wrestles with material that’s darker than his usual schtick," says Tambay Obenson. "It’s a commendable risk on his part that doesn’t fully exploit its potential to be the thoroughly engrossing episodic with a profound message that it probably thinks it is. While Hart and co-star Wesley Snipes, in their first onscreen matchup, make for a high-octane duo, the script betrays that effort with uninspired writing from series creator, writer, and showrunner Eric Newman (Narcos: Mexico) that doesn’t quite make darkness its ally, and leans too much on plot conveniences and a predictability that mutes suspense." Obenson adds: "There’s a sharper series hiding in True Story’s script that assumes its audience is just as sharp, and would relish a puzzle, with a message about humbly facing the consequences of the choices we make; or a take that waxes economic on what unchecked capitalism breeds in a world in which each character is driven almost entirely by greed. But the desired message conveyed seems to be that celebrity isn’t easy. Or, to quote a Notorious B.I.G. single that’s surprisingly not included as a needle drop in this very on-the-nose series, 'Mo Money Mo Problems.'"
Kevin Hart can't get out of his own way in True Story: "Many of our greatest comedians have something hard and unrelenting under the surface," says Daniel D'Addario. "The pursuit of laughs can be mercenary; there’s a reason that standups, on a good night, will say that they 'killed.' Kevin Hart, never shy about his ambition, now brings the subtext of a comedy career to the surface. His new limited series True Story, a violent scripted drama executive produced by Eric Newman of Narcos and made for Netflix, is practically glowing with anger. There’s invective directed at the public, at the hangers-on that come with fame, and especially at the character of his brother. These resentments consume True Story from the inside, resulting in a potent testament to self-regard." He adds: 'This show epitomizes the post-Breaking Bad tendency to mistake extremity for meaning. Hart, a committed but limited actor, tends to indicate Kid’s anger through screaming, replacing shades of meaning with decibels. His targets include his tormentors from the world of crime, fans who treat him with glancing disrespect, and his ex and co-parent (Lauren London). It can feel as though Kid’s stressful situation — one that we eventually understand was not his fault — is an excuse to allow the character to tell off figures in his life. None comes in for more continual critique than brother Carlton, whom Wesley Snipes very effectively imbues with a long-suffering mien and a sense of perpetual calculation. Good as Snipes is, seven episodes is a long time to make the point that everyone around a superstar is on the take, and the suspense sags as the show’s game becomes clear. Given Netflix’s ample resources, Hart decided to tell a story in which to be a celebrity is to be a perpetual victim of haters, users and those who just don’t understand. Perhaps, though, that’s the cost of being extraordinary: The most revealing touch is that Hart isn’t just playing a comic genius but also a dangerous fighter and skilled gunman. The only move he can’t execute on True Story, it seems, is get out of his own way."
It feels like Hart is messing with us: "Here he is playing this character that is clearly modeled after the actor himself, right down to the story's focus on a brother with a rocky past. In a project called True Story, no less," says Adam Rosenberg. "He does seem to tell on himself, in a way that may speak to Hart's thought process in taking on this job in the first place...True Story is really a tale about the commodification of celebrity. It's a running theme in every episode, where someone wants something that they need Kid to provide. That's what leaves him scrambling to plug leak after leak. Kid's fame, and the way people walk into his life as a result of that fame, is the fuel for his own potential undoing as he struggles to keep the truth from coming out. At times the performance feels downright personal for Hart, who has faced his share of backlash over the years. When he snarls at a super-fan (Theo Rossi, in one of the more memorable roles) during one particularly fraught moment, it's not a long leap to imagine a similar outburst from the real Hart (or any high-profile celeb, really). And when Kid later realizes that he needs something from the same fan, his sudden turnaround into magnanimous chum is smoothly slimy in that way of falsely congenial celebs working a room at a press or fan event. It feels like Hart has lived at least some aspects of this story, and he's injecting those experiences into his work. That's how acting works, of course. But there are little quirks to the performance that make it feel a bit more personal. A character twist that strangely parallels Hart's life here, a deadpan stare into the camera there."
True Story begs for too much empathy for a character who brings nearly all of his problems on himself: "Hart is a talented actor, but True Story feels like it wants to keep pointing a sign in every other scene saying, 'Look how talented an actor he is,'" says LaToya Ferguson. "Hart is tasked with a number of monologues in every episode, ranging from faux deep and existential to self-righteous anger and frustration. It’s not that Hart is unable to perform these monologues; he does so, competently each and every time, which helps. But they do all blend together — especially coming from as unlikable and entitled a character as Kid — and feel extremely self-indulgent. For its seven-episode run, True Story raises the question of whether Kid is a sociopath — and based on what Newman told Entertainment Weekly, the answer is yes — but it never actually tries to examine that idea at all. In the same EW interview, Newman said that Hart came to him with a pitch that was essentially, 'I want to kill someone,' calling the project 'Crazy Kevin.' And so True Story was born. That may explain why Kid is so close of a parallel to Hart himself, but the concept doesn’t quite work — and creates the lingering question of why Hart would want to be looked at as someone like Kid."
It’s hard to shake the feeling that True Story exists because of what happened to Hart around the 2019 Oscars: "If you remember, he was announced as the host of the event but then forced to step down after some homophobic tweets and stand-up bits surfaced," says Brian Tallerico. "Three years later, Netflix has launched a series about a fictional version of Hart who makes some much bigger mistakes than the real one, of course, but the show lands in a tone-deaf place about cancel culture and how we never really know what’s going on behind the scenes in a celebrity’s life. It almost feels like 'If you thought my tweets were bad ...' Worse than the funhouse mirror reflection of reality is the fact that this drama doesn’t have enough meat on its bones for seven (eight, really, since the first episode is double-length) chapters of television, and the story it does tell never once feels, well, 'true.'"
Kevin Hart says he always knew he had a dramatic performance in him: “I was so excited about doing this because I know I got it,” Hart tells Variety. “I know the world of drama is there for me if I want to take it. If I want to go and do it, I know I can do it well, and I think the baby steps that I’ve taken with Upside (and) Fatherhood, it was about just slow walking my audience into going, ‘Oh, my God, like Kevin can act. It’s not just being funny. We know in the world of comedy and action and comedy and adventure, he can act. He does that very well. But oh, my god, he can do this, too.’” Separately, he tells The New York Times: “When it’s all said and done with me and my career, people are going to realize that I’ve checked every box. This is just to simply show, I got that. This is in my bag. If I get the itch to do it, I’ll create the thing to scratch it.”