Review: ‘Luther’

"Luther" is a gritty British crime drama that puts a troubled detective up against psychotic killers whose sprees are preposterously random yet nevertheless engrossing.

No one can accuse “Luther” — the engrossing six-part series that (submitted as a miniseries) earned star Idris Elba an Emmy nomination — of having lost its edge. Indeed, this gritty British crime drama, returning in a four-part format, comes about as close to David Fincher’s “Seven” as anything on TV, with its troubled detective matching wits against psychotic killers whose sprees are preposterously random yet nevertheless engrossing. While not as engaging as its first flight, “Luther” remains an eminently watchable addition to the U.K.’s treasure-trove of noir-ish crime.

Admittedly, the new season leaps back into procedural matters rather abruptly, given the tumultuous events that transpired before. Moreover, Luther’s relationship with a cold-blooded killer who became fascinated with him, Alice (Ruth Wilson), recedes too much into the background. Simply put, Wilson is so unnervingly good in the role, you wish there was more of her.

Still, Luther is quickly reinstated as a London homicide detective tasked with solving the grisliest of crimes, this time tackling a couple of different cases that each spill over into a pair of episodes. The first murderer commits horrible killings wearing a hideous mask, while the other leaves homicidal decisions to the role of a dice — and contains a twist so improbable, it’s a good bet nobody will see it coming.

There’s also a continuing “B” plot in which Luther tries to help the daughter of a woman whose husband he helped put away, which places him in conflict with some particularly nasty mob figures, triggering an extremely tense game of cat and mouse.

While the idea of crimefighter-dogged-by-personal demons hardly smacks of freshness, the former “The Wire” star so owns the character as to give it his own spin. Barring that, though, writer Neil Cross’ approach to the crime yarns is so visceral and grim it’s easy to be drawn in strictly on that level.

BBC America is showcasing the series as part of a themed hour dubbed “Dramaville,” which began this summer with the period series “The Hour.” With “Luther” coming on its heels, the channel’s fast establishing that bit of real estate as a neighborhood well worth visiting.


BBC America, Wed. Sept. 28, 10 p.m.


Filmed in the U.K. by BBC America and BBC Prods. Executive producers, Phillippa Giles; producer, Katie Swinden; line producer, Leila Kirkpatrick; associate producer, Idris Elba; director, Sam Miller; writer, Neil Cross.


Camera, Giulio Biccari; production designer, Paul Cross; editor, Tania Reddin; music, Paul Englishby; casting, Andy Morgan. 60 MIN.


John Luther - Idris Elba
Alice Morgan - Ruth Wilson
Martin Schenk - Dermot Crowley
Justin Ripley - Warren Brown
Erin Gray - Nikki Amulko-Bird
Mark North - Paul McGann
Baba - Pam Ferris
Caroline Jones - Kierston Wareing

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