Though it’s seen as Sky’s bid to cash-in on Marvel and DC Comic’s recent domination of our screens, Lucky Man is not a typical superhero story. It might be the brainchild of Stan Lee – the 93-year-old comic-book legend who created many of Marvel’s best-loved characters from Spider-Man to the Fantastic Four – but this is a thoroughly British take on the genre. There are no spandex-clad do-gooders ready to save the day here; instead our hero is a brilliant but broken cop on the brink of oblivion.
That man is James Nesbitt’s London murder detective Harry Clayton, a compulsive gambler with mounting debts and a failed marriage whose luck takes an unexpected upturn when he wakes up after a no-strings rendezvous with Sienna Guillory’s enigmatic beauty to find an ancient bracelet bound to his wrist.
Somewhat surprisingly, Clayton’s literal lucky charm doesn’t exactly bestow upon him the kind of good fortune the show’s title implies. First he finds himself placed in the egregious position of investigating the murder of his gambling grubstaker, casino owner Mr Lau. From there his problems only worsen as his investigation is dogged by the watchful eye of Steven Mackintosh’s ruthless copper while his possession of the amulet makes him the target of dark forces seeking to reclaim it for their own purposes.
One thing this 10-part thriller shares with its American counterparts is its near cinematic scope. London has rarely looked as gorgeously seductive as it does here, director Andy De Emmony borrowing some of Marvel’s visual swagger to great effect. The stylised casinos, nightclubs and alleys have a heightened, neo-noir vibe that provides the perfect backdrop to a clutch of expensive-looking set-pieces, such as the first episode’s thrilling and fabulously outlandish speed-boat race across the Thames.
Sadly, such ambition is not reflected in the execution of the series’ intriguing conceit. The idea of an ordinary man ‘cursed’ with good luck feels loaded with possibilities to explore the Faustian relationship between actions and consequences, yet co-creator Neil Biswas keeps this supernatural angle firmly at arms length throughout the opening episode. This might be because ‘luck’ is a tricky concept to visualise, but the failure to create a compelling workaround leaves us saddled with a plodding cop procedural that’s further stifled by portentous dialogue and a need to introduce intertwining plots and characters in a hurry.
Thank the stars, then, for James Nesbitt, who’s left to do most of the heavy lifting in episode one. Quite why the beloved Northern Irish everyman has never been considered as a potential Bond is a mystery, especially as the frazzled and sardonic charm his brings to Clayton here – not to mention a penchant for a tightly-trimmed suit – seems like a perfect fit for 00-status. The campaign starts here!
Lucky Man is not the superhero story anyone was expecting – not by any measure; but while it lacks any kind of luck, there’s enough swagger and charm here to make for an entertaining Friday-night yarn all the same.
Click here to watch a trailer for Stan Lee’s Lucky Man