Playing a tough yet passionate copper who doesn’t mind craving a few eggs from time to time, Idris Elba’s BBC TV star has been given the 007 treatment in Netflix’s latest action movie adaptation, giving audiences the most accurate impression of what the actor might have looked like if he was handed the keys to James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5.
Netflix’s Luther: Fallen Sun is less Craig’s Casino Royale and more Pierce Brosnan’s Die Another Day, however, telling a completely nonsensical story with so much earnest conviction that it’s impossible not to jump on board. Stripping away the fallible nature of the most recent Bond, Elba’s title character is a heroic caricature of staggering strength and resilience whose ego blinds any sort of objective morality.
Created in isolation from the BBC series, Fallen Sun quickly establishes Luther as a maverick cop before a shady villain, David Robey (Andy Serkis), publicises the officer’s past inability to play by the rules, sending the hero to prison whilst a sinister threat brews in the city. Without the dogged efforts of Luther to track him down, Robey enacts his disturbing plan, blackmailing a collection of victims to follow his every insidious word.
Such leads to a sincerely disturbing initial set piece inspired by the darkest David Fincher crime drama, wherein Robey lures a hoard of parents to a manor house and forces them to come face-to-face with their deceased children. Then, to taunt the broken parents even further, Robey presses his face to the window of the crime scene and shows them videos of their now-deceased sons and daughters.
Indeed, Serkis’ villain is a gloriously immoral weasel, as well as an incredibly silly antagonist, but the level of his cartoon wickedness harkens back to the absurdity of Bond’s most eccentric adversaries, making for a gloriously thrilling watch. Embodying the state of a detestable villain a little too well, Serkis is the greatest part of Netflix’s latest thriller, which can’t seem to keep up with the freneticism of its villain.
Opposite Serkis, Elba leads the film with a meaningful stomp but never really excels past being a cookie-cutter ‘crooked copper’ who scams his way into authority before winning over his colleagues with a tenacious charm. ‘He may not play by the rules, but damn, does he get the job done’ is the vibe screenwriter Neil Cross is going for, and when he’s trying to create a camp action flick, this works well. What doesn’t work is when the cartoonish plot comes into contact with the film’s ambitions to be something darker and more sincere.
Whilst the series illustrated a similar tone to the movie, its balance of absurdity and sincerity was far steadier, making Netflix’s adaptation seem pretty misjudged in comparison. Still, if the Bond series is wanting to return to its camp roots, it may benefit from taking notes from Luther: Fallen Sun, as whilst it may lack any kind of emotional weight, it’s an absurdly good time.