Friday, January 6, 2012

BBC's Luther 2 Reviewed

I could say I'm not into cop dramas. I don't eagerly await new seasons of TV shows centered around the brave men and women in law enforcement, the scientists who analyze evidence or even the lawyers who prosecute the suspects. I will say I've watched the holy hell out of Law and Order, to the point where I knew where a character's argument came from in the movie "Horrible Bosses" when he admitted to it. That is the exception, not the rule. That said, selling me on a cop drama from the UK, even with all the praise coming from my journo friends, was going to be a steep hill to climb. Done and done.

Some insane things must have gone down in Luther 1, as our title character is a very beaten down man as we join him in his daily routine. Luther is the "hard but caring" good guy who would break every rule if it means saving a life. In this day and age, it is entirely believable this is what a successful detective WOULD have to do to be the most effective, as all the politics in play make getting justice served nearly impossible. He is also willing to hang his fellow detectives out on the wire for a bit to serve the greater good. His rationale is "this is the job they signed up for...they knew the risks." Again, this may not make him the most popular guy, but no one can argue he isn't at the top of his game...and ultimately right.

Our story breaks down into two chases and a wrap around central story more centered on Luther himself. The first follows the exploits of a serial killer looking to become the stuff of nightmares for an entire generation. He believes there is not enough to fear in this world and would set this matter right. We see a sort of cat and mouse game unfold with the killer addressing the police directly to assure everyone knows what is being done and challenging them to stop it. The killer himself is not very charismatic, a point the show does not gloss over in an attempt to convince you otherwise, and his character flaws wind up being the chink in his armor. The second case (and more interesting of the two in my opinion) follows a man who creates chaos on the roll of some dice. When he arrives on the scene, anything from destruction of property to random, violent killing is a possibility..and often, both occurs. These moments are jarring and starkly real. The police need to figure out some pattern to this madness before more people die needlessly, so the story takes on a very intense tone and Luther and company race against the clock and fight past mounting frustrations to stop the madness. The wrap around tale explores the limits of Luther's calling. In his line of work, he is surely told "you can't save everyone", but can he repeat this to someone in dire need to save himself? When do you say no, go home and attempt to be a "normal" person with a life outside of the job? ...and can you live with this choice later? We have a hell of a time finding out which path Luther takes. The man could easily be a master criminal, so we are left feeling glad he's on our side!

You can say the clever writing in this show is king, but it wouldn't have such an impact without the cinematic vision cast over a vibrant city overflowing with potential targets. Through both stories, you get the sense that the city is very much a character as each setting, vastly different from the previous, sets a definitive tone. A well lit, modern office building blemished by sudden, unspeakable violence. Alley ways and abandoned buildings providing many a shadow for a human monster to leap from. The execution is excellent.

Of course none of this can be accomplished without a killer cast. Idris Elba plays Luther as a practically remorseless detective living life on the razor's edge. He comes off like the type of man who would answer a snarky remark with a puch in the face, and at times, this may be the case, but ultimately, Luther is a chess player. He knows the game, the players and the board and can navigate through it all with crackerjack timing and nearly flawless grace. It is Elba's acting brilliance that makes is all seem as if it all were a masterful stroke of brilliance conjured mere seconds before action. This is insanely fun to watch! Warren Brown plays DS Justin Ripley; the sort of man whose trust in Luther is unfailing. Nikki Amuka-Bird plays DS Erin Gray; a detective who wants to see justice done, but not perverted at the same time. Gray and Ripley seem as two sides of the same coin. Brown plays Ripley as a very likable man, always backing up a friend and willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. He knows some may have to bend the rules but he is always a professional himself. Bird plays Gray full of tension and doubt, as if every negative moment reflects back on her own performance. Looking into her eyes, you can just about see her potential to explode. High marks also go out to Luther's boss (whose name I can't decipher at the moment from IMDB) who is the source of countless enjoyable scenes, weather from a knowing glance, an offhand remark or putting his years of experience to work on a suspect.

The downside of Luther 2? It is over in a flash. 4 hours seems like 1 when dragged along at breakneck speed through Luther's gritty streets. With this knowledge in mind (and the fact that the show is incredible) you should probably just go ahead and buy Luther and Luther 2 together, stretching your entertainment over a weekend instead of 1 day..or one afternoon for the film fanatics. Trust me. Once you start watching, you won't stop until there is no more.

Nab Luther HERE and Luther 2 HERE and buy together for free shipping!

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