Amongst the glut of whodunnits and police thrillers available these days in various Indian regional and Hindi cinema, its takes something special or different to stand out. And John Luther does have some twists to the expected norms. There is a stoic and unflappable police officer here too, but, unexpectedly, he is fallible. He isn’t immune to physical harm for one thing. In some respects, this could be considered something of a prequel story to a unique police character if there are any more installments forthcoming.
The movie opens with an impressive set piece involving an overnight Volvo traveling the high roads of Munnar at night. The bus stops by the side of the road and there is a commotion as blood is found dripping over its windows. The cops, including the duty-bound John Luther (Jayasurya) from his sister’s wedding party, are called in to investigate what appears to be just a case of hit and run of a bike. But from hereon the case opens up to myriad possibilities, and the possible link to a serial kidnapper/killer on the prowl who, to make things even tougher for the police, appears to select his victims randomly without any particular similarity in traits. John Luther, assisted by his trusted deputy, played by a wooden Deepak Parambol, are on the trail which leads them to a few blind alleys and mounting pressure to stop the kidnappings. He also has to deal with the disappointment on the side of his family, especially his father’s (Siddique), on his inability to prioritize them. As other people go missing after that first hit and run, the clues point to a certain pickup truck and no motives. But when the sliver of a clue opens up, it takes the police to a village near the border of Tamil Nadu and possible redemption. But the surprises, as ever in a whodunnit, may not just be over yet.
While at times it appears to be going the way of the standard hero officer template, the narrative surprises at times. For one, the songs, even if perhaps not totally necessary, are pretty good. Secondly, the standard fight sequences of the lead up against multiple henchmen don’t end up the way we totally expect it to. After one such sequence midway through the movie, John Luther wakes up with one of his senses, vital to his job, damaged and he is faced with an extended time away on the sidelines, if not for ever. But, with the help of technology and support from unexpected quarters, he manages to come back to the job to continue his hunt of the criminal. This part of the story may not have been essential to this particular tale, but it sure helps to establish a distinct character for any potential series of movies.
The acting itself is mostly competent, if not exceptional. Jayasurya is an actor who, when he initially came on the scene, I thought may fade away on account of what I thought was a limited range. Yet, he has managed to admirably stick around, in between taking up strong supporting and negative roles, before having a great flourish in a second innings of lead roles with varied shades. And while he may not blow us away sometimes with his performance, he is always earnest and efficient, as is the case here. Siddique is dependably good, as is the villain revealed towards the end. Deepak Parambol as Felix, Luther’s supporting foil is just about okay without really making too much of a mark despite being there for quite a bit of the runtime. Athmeeya Rajan as Luther’s wife too doesn’t have much to do.
The screenplay is the real strong suit of the movie, and even if not perfect it leaves us with enough impressive moments to rate this one of the better Indian cop movies in recent times and well worth a dekko.