John Luther Movie Review: Standard investigative thriller elevated by an intense third act
Jayasurya plays a hearing-impaired cop, hunting a serial killer, in John Luther
A couple of weeks ago, we saw Jayasurya playing a character who loses the ability of one of his five senses. So one can't help but be amused after seeing him playing another character who loses the function of another one of his five senses. It's the ears, this time. The good thing is John Luther, directed by newcomer Abhijith Joseph, doesn't spend so much time showing the protagonist's struggles with his impairment. The titular cop carries on with his duty regardless of it. If there's one thing I like about the last couple of characters that Jayasurya played, they all don't stay weak for long. Is this a pattern?
Director: Abhijith Joseph
Cast: Jayasurya, Deepak Parambol, Siddique, Athmiya
There is a scene where John attends his sister's engagement and can't wait to get back to an ongoing investigation. He is a workaholic, a quality his father (Siddique) can't stand. There is another reason for his dislike of his son's profession. John has often been in situations that caused him varying degrees of bodily harm. So when his ears are damaged — except for 20 percent of hearing in one ear — it causes more concern for his dad and us. I say us because it's this trait that chiefly contributes to the tension in the film. How will someone with damaged ears catch and subdue a dangerous serial murderer? John Luther is a standard investigative thriller that starts with a hit-and-run and, subsequently, a missing man.
John Luther is strong on mood, with the mist-heavy Munnar locales, occasional rains, dilapidated warehouses, and the orange-and-teal tone accentuating the mounting dread. However, it's not too high on disturbing content — when compared with notable names in the same genre like Raatsasan or the recent Antakshari, that is. Most of John Luther follows the format of a standard investigative thriller, starting with John and his sub-ordinate (Deepak Parambol) wading through clues gathered from CCTV footage, license plates, and informants. I was amused when I remembered that Rajeev Ravi's cop thriller, Kuttavum Shikshayum, currently playing alongside John Luther in theatres, has the cops beginning the investigation in almost the same way, by looking for a vehicle.
Among the recent investigation thrillers in Malayalam, John Luther is the third after Anjaam Pathira and Twenty One Gms to have a creepy-looking automobile with an unseen driver wreaking havoc. The film is at its most effective when focussing on John's investigation. It briefly tests your patience when it veers off course to visit his family members. This whole family portion seems forcefully incorporated to appeal to family audiences. Aside from giving us the information about John being a serious risk-taker, it felt irrelevant in relation to everything else that happens in the film. And, of course, Siddique can always be counted on to play the father who later changes his tune after all that whining about his son not spending enough time with his family.
The film scores highly in the final act when the killer's identity gets revealed through a clever — but familiar — trick of misdirection. When John confronts the antagonist, who seems more formidable than initially assumed, things get suitably heavier. You begin to feel that John is in real danger.
I wouldn't call John Luther an earth-shattering piece of cinema, but it succeeds in its aim of keeping one engaged for two hours. However, when you compare it to films like Drishyam 2 and Antakshari and think of the novelty factor, it comes up short.