LUTHER: THE FALLEN SUN: 2 STARS. “feels as rumpled as Luther’s famous jacket.”
For five BBC series and a feature film, Idris Elba has played the unconventional British detective DCI John Luther as a psychologically dark combination of Columbo’s rumpled intelligence with the deductive abilities of Sherlock Holmes. Thirteen years after first donning Luther’s famous grey wool jacket, Elba returns with “Luther: The Fallen Sun,” a nihilistic crime thriller now playing in theatres before moving to Netflix next week.
The story begins with the blackmailing and abduction of teenaged office cleaner Callum Aldrich (James Bamford). By the time London copper Luther arrives on the crime scene a crowd has gathered, including Callum’s distraught mother Camille (Borislava Stratieva). She insists Luther promise that he will bring her son’s abductor to justice, and breaking the first rule of police work, he gives her his word.
But before he can solve the case, Luther’s history catches up with him when his past transgressions are made public. Criminal charges are filed. He is found guilty of witness tampering, vigilantism and a myriad of other crimes. Sent to a maximum-security facility, he can’t let go of the case, especially when the abductor (Andy Serkis) taunts him from the outside.
One elaborate prison break later, Luther is back on the case, despite the best efforts of counter intelligence operative Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo) to track him down and send him back behind bars.
“Luther: The Fallen Sun” brings back many of the hallmarks of the beloved TV series. Luther is still the perceptive detective who knows the intimate inner workings of the criminal mind, the rain-soaked streets of London have rarely looked more gothic, the baddie is as unhinged as a screen door flapping in the wind, the unveiling of Luther’s iconic grey jacket is treated like the unearthing of a priceless religious artefact and, of course, Elba’s charisma cuts through the movie’s gloomy look and feel like a hot knife through butter.
So why, then, is “Luther: The Fallen Sun” such a bummer?
It begins promisingly, with the abduction and creepy Luther-esque set up, before allowing the story to overwhelm the thing that make the BBC series so watchable, Luther’s complicated relationship with the order part of law and order. His ability to think, and sometimes behave, like the villains he hunted was exciting, particularly in his complicated, line-crossing relationship with malignant narcissist Alice Morgan, played by Ruth Wilson, on four seasons of the TV show. It was that dynamic that gave the character, and by extension, the show, its complex aura of danger.
That was no ordinary police procedural. Unfortunately, “Luther: The Fallen Sun” is. Keeping Luther on the run, isolating him for much of the film’s running time takes away the interactions so crucial to bring the story to life. What’s left is a sorta-kinda action movie with a pantomime baddie but the heart of what made “Luther” great is missing.
“Luther: The Fallen Sun” has all the earmarks we expect from “Luther” but this time around they feel as rumpled as Luther’s famous jacket.