'Hard Sun': TV Review
'Luther' creator Neil Cross misses on his latest, an ultra-violent and flimsy coupling of cops and a doomsday event.
Neil Cross struck gold by using Idris Elba to punch up the British detective series genre starting in 2010 with Luther, and the duo managed to make that a compelling dark police thriller longer than expected. But as Cross turns his attention to another detective series and adds in a dystopian twist inspired by a David Bowie song, well, the results are a whole lot different.
Hard Sun, a joint effort from BBC and Hulu, is an ultra-violent, not very believable and mostly unlikeable hot mess that has bits and pieces that would, separately, make for more interesting series.
For example, if Cross wanted to make an entire Luther-like series starring Agyness Deyn, who plays a detective on Hard Sun with a very troubled past, that would be truly something to witness, since Deyn (The White King, Sunset Song) displays a magnetic power and empathy.
Or maybe someone just takes David Bowie's "Five Years" song, which inspired Cross to write Hard Sun (they share the same premise of the world dying in five years' time and what that means) and does a better job of it.
Either of those ideas would ultimately probably be better than Hard Sun, which mashes up corrupt detectives with government goons trying to crack down on a hack that reveals the awful truth about a cataclysmic doomsday event. Failing to find enough grist, the show showers everything in an excessive amount of violence and blood, which is really saying something given the British cops don't use guns.
Maybe the most disappointing thing about Hard Sun is that so many great and creative series — including Luther — have come from Britain through the years, and this feels like Law & Order with buckets of blood and everybody worrying that they've only got five years left before the sun goes out or lights the planet on fire.
A little more thoughtfulness and a whole lot more nuance would have been nice.
The series stars Jim Sturgess (Close to the Enemy, Across the Universe) as Charlie Hicks, a slick and dirty detective who never allows viewers to like him. After all, he's secretly been accused of murdering his old partner, which is why detective Elaine Renko (Deyn) has been assigned to him and is building a case for him in the rafters of her dank hotel room (don't ask). Hicks has a young daughter, a pregnant wife and is also sleeping with his ex-partner's wife, plus stealing money from the office to help her out, so it's not like there's concern left about whether Renko busts him or he dies five years later at the hands of the sun.
Renko is infinitely more interesting because Deyn, her hair cropped short and her attire suggesting she's not even remotely interested in playing any kind of game either at work or at home, is a badass viewers can get behind. This is true even though she's been saddled with extreme darkness — the show opens with her being violently stabbed and assaulted in her own home (the scene is gruesome because she fights back with knives and other sharp objects, then is covered in gasoline — all of that horribleness leading to an ever darker reveal about her attacker). Despite all of that — and some of the dialogue and motivation she's forced to use in this series — Deyn gives her Renko character something that pops off the screen. If this show were about her, it would be infinitely better (minus the sun).
But it's not, of course, and Cross' fixation on people doing terrible things to each other when they believe what they've heard about this impending doomsday event (even though it's discredited in the media) leads to a collection of awful and bloody encounters, each taking its toll. With Cross portraying the government and its MI-5 security branch as all-powerful, soul-crushing and intent on keeping the hard truth about the "hard sun" from citizens (in the ominous form of Nikki Amuka-Bird), adding detective Hicks' unlikable nature to the gruesome murders just makes the whole thing unwatchable.
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Agyness Deyn, Nikki Amuka-Bird
Created and written by: Neil Cross
Directed by: Brian Kirk
Premieres: Wednesday (Hulu)