Review: Luther: The Fallen Sun

Score: B-

Director: Jamie Payne

Cast: Idris Elba, Cynthia Erivo, Andy Serkis, Dermot Crowley

Running Time: 129 Minutes

Rated: R

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.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.