Luther arrived on screens at the height of the "Difficult Men" era, when the most acclaimed TV dramas focused on bad dudes who were great at their jobs (e.g. Walter White on Breaking Bad and Don Draper on Mad Men). Though writer Neil Cross never used drug or alcohol abuse as a crutch, DCI John Luther was similarly self-destructive. His dogged determination and often flagrant disregard for civil rights put England's worst killers in jail or in the ground, but it rarely brought him any happiness. The often grim show could grow repetitive, but Elba was never less than stellar.
And so it is with Netflix's The Fallen Sun, which features its most twisted killer yet (Andy Serkis) and a bigger budget. But it never feels like more than a two-part episode, and a derivative one at that. Serkis's David Robey is one of those villains who seemingly has unlimited funds, a massive operation, a bottomless appetite for chaos and no end to his depravity. He's always two steps ahead of the cops but his masterplan makes no sense. Early on, he leaks a dossier on Luther to the press. All of the detective's misdeeds over the years deservedly land him in prison. But of course, that won't last long.
A prison riot setpiece is by far the best scene of the movie, with director Jamie Payne (who did the most recent season in 2019) flexing some action muscle. With Luther back on the streets, the film starts to feel like a riff on The Fugitive, with Cynthia Erivo's Odette Raine taking the Tommy Lee Jones role. She's the new detective who must find both Robey and the man escaped, and she doesn't care who she catches first.
Now, these are all tremendous actors doing excellent work, but they can only do so much with this material. Robey's M.O. is a complete rip-off of the Black Mirror episode "Shut Up and Dance," blackmailing dozens of people into doing his malicious bidding. And a late introduction of Odette's daughter telegraphs that she'll be put in harm's way. Still, it's never less than compelling. And Martin Crowley's return as Luther's former boss and confidante Schenk is a welcome sight.
Luther's leap to Netflix isn't a step up from his past cases. It's got a coat of gloss over its grimy origins, but it's still the same dirty cop underneath.
*This film is streaming globally on Netflix.