Idris Elba detective thriller 'Luther: The Fallen Sun' turns back time

Movie picks up where BBC series 'Luther' left off.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Idris Elba returns as detective chief inspector John Luther — is that an incredible title or what? — in "Luther: The Fallen Sun," a thoroughly '90s crime thriller that couldn't be more '90s if it starred Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.

It's the kind of slick, reliable, chase-down-the-bad-guy detective procedural that was abundant in the '90s but was swallowed up as superhero extravaganzas began dominating our multiplexes. Even if it doesn't always work (and falls victim to an absurd climax), its beats are comforting and familiar, even for those who skipped the entirety of the series on which it is based.

Idris Elba in "Luther: The Fallen Sun."

Elba played Luther, the brilliant-minded detective whose obsessive nature sometimes results in brute manifestations of violence, for five seasons over nine years on the BBC. Here he's back and tracking down a psycho who is cyberstalking victims online and blackmailing and killing them in the real world.

The killer is David Robey and he's played by Andy Serkis, the motion capture whiz whose boffo hair here looks like an homage to former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson. David's stock in trade is shame, and he finds his victims' deepest, darkest online secrets and threatens to expose them to the world, mining their humiliation for his gain.

Luther finds himself in a bit of hot water himself when he's jailed early on for occasionally coloring outside the lines of his professional code of ethics. Counter intelligence officer Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo, quite good) aims to keep him behind bars while Luther is trying to escape and bring David to justice, which is plenty of action to fill two hours and some change of runtime.

Cynthia Erivo in "Luther: The Fallen Sun."

The cat and mouse aspect of "Luther" creator Neil Cross' script — which is doubled since Luther and Odette are also circling each other — recalls the James Patterson adaptations "Kiss the Girls" and "Along Came a Spider," the types of shlocky but well-conceived adult thrillers that used to bring big audiences to theaters in the '90s and early '00s.

Even its approach to the internet is decidedly old school: "The Fallen Sun" tries to position the internet as a place where people log on to watch live murders online, which goes back to early fears of the intersection of technology and human curiosity. And while it may actually be a thing on some deep corner of the dark web, at the risk of sounding naïve, it's nothing this reviewer has ever encountered outside the movies (from Dee Snider's "Strangeland" to "Feardotcom" to "Hostel" and beyond) to that have tried to convince audiences it's a thing for the past 30 years. (If I'm wrong, I'm good with staying blissful in my ignorance.)

It all builds to a heavy handed and overblown conclusion but Elba and Erivo keep the train from completely derailing. "Luther: The Fallen Sun" is competent yet forgettable, just enough to tide one over until Luther's next case arrives on his desk.


'Luther: The Fallen Sun'


Rated R: for disturbing/violent content, language and some sexual material

Running time: 129 minutes

In theaters, on Netflix March 10