In December 2015, Patrick Malahide appeared in the S04E01 episode of Luther as George Cornelius an “old-school geezer from Islington”. It is an excellent role and provides some much welcomed charm in an otherwise bleak and scary program.
George Cornelius: Gentleman Criminal
DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) is devastated to learn that Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), a genius and a serial killer he has formed a relationship with, has supposedly been found dead. After intimidating a snitch, Luther learns that gangster George Cornelius is said to be responsible for her death. He heads over to Mr. Cornelius’ posh place to have a little word with him.
The door is answered by George’s daughter-in-law Mel Cornelius (Simone James). She informs Luther that George isn’t in, but Luther ain’t buying it. Eventually George himself comes to the door. “You rang, my lord?” Right from the get-go George is funny, cocky and instantly charming. He’s also very well dressed and sharp looking in both style and mind.
Luther inquires if he is indeed George Cornelius. “You know I am.” He’s charming, but not very modest. Luther asks him to accompany him…to somewhere. Cornelius wants to know exactly who this guy is. “Police.” Luther is kind of the taciturn type. “Which police?” “The police.”
At this point George’s patience wears thin. “I don’t care if you’re f*cking Sting. You lot don’t come around here, not for any reason; this is my house. You all know that.” Luther remains stubborn, so George wants to know who Luther’s guv’nor is. Clearly George has a considerable bit of pull with the police. The London police that is, and not the 1980s new wave band. Though I am impressed George knows about them.
But, before Luther can reply, George’s son, apparently named Terry dashes up with a golf club. “I’ve got this, Dad!” Luther takes only the briefest pause before punching George in the face and headbutting Terry. Then he drags George off tossing the dapper gentleman into the boot of his car and speeds off.
Male Bonding by the Radiator
Luther takes George to his mostly abandoned and run-down gaff where he handcuffs the gangster to a radiator. George, to his credit, seems incredibly calm and lets Luther know he doesn’t think much of the sparse and run-down place.
Luther tells George he had been thinking of leaving the country, but that was before George put a crimp on it. That piques George’s interest since he has no clue who Luther is whatsoever. Luther accuses him of having Alice Morgan killed. The camera closes up on George’s utterly confused face. The cinematography is great and very artistic. “I did what to who now,” inquires George with quite a lot of flourish. He’s intrigued at any rate.
Luther shows him a photograph of Alice and the penny seems to be dropping. George tells Luther he didn’t put her down or have her put down. Luther doesn’t believe him and reckons he’ll be killing George for what he did. George: “You do and they’ll sort you. My boy, my daughter-in-law….they clocked your face; they clocked your car. How long do you think you got before my firm are popping your eyeballs out with their thumbs?”
Luther doesn’t care and says George doesn’t scare him. George looks properly impressed there. He tells Luther about how Alice came to him under a false name with some diamonds, “blue ribbon merchandise, but difficult to shift.” George has the right connections to shift such things so they agreed to a 70/30 split. I expect that is 70% for George, but Alice needed the money sharpish so she was in no position to haggle. George elaborates, “she and some geezer were running away to…..” and then Luther finishes the sentence, “San Paulo.” Yep, Luther was the geezer.
He gave her the name of a contact, but George also had some of his boys meet her to steal the diamonds. “Well, what can I say, it’s a lot of money, and at the end of the day I’m a thief.” George is profoundly honest and self-aware for a crim. 🙂
The next bit is great because George just can’t contain how impressed he is with Alice’s fighting spirit. With some theatrical hand gestures he lasciviously describes what she did to his robbers. “She stabs the driver in the back of the head with a hat pin.” Another one, Callum Green, managed to make it to hospital. “Turns out, she’s kicked him in the nuts so hard they’ve blown up like footballs. He’s in no condition to hurt anybody.”
OK, so earlier in the episode, Luther discovered the special phone that he used to contact Alice is missing. He asks George about it, but it is clear that George has no idea what or where it is. “Mate, until today I had no idea you existed.” He is sincere and has absolutely no trouble holding Luther’s intimidating gaze. Their eye-lock is amazing. Luther realizes the truth. “You didn’t do it, did ya.” “I really didn’t.”
Then They are Disrupted
Meanwhile, Luther’s police associates make some really horrible discoveries in the program’s main plot which concerns a cannibal. The less said there the better; it is gruesome. They ring Luther as he stands poetically by a window looking out while poor George is still attached to his radiator. Uncuff him!
Luther is talking on the phone to DI Theo Bloom (Darren Boyd) when something terrible happens. Bloom is caught in an explosion. Luther turns on a radio to see what happened, and the announcer is talking about an explosion in block of flats. He tells George to wait as he leaves.
The storyline progresses with the cannibal element, but we get one last glimpse of George furiously trying to free himself from the radiator. He removes his jacket and kicks and pulls, but to no avail. It is pretty obvious he is hurting his wrist though.
Before this, I’d never seen Luther, but it is a very good program. It is extremely dark and gory, so the more personable scenes with the swaggering and facetious, although obviously dangerous, George Cornelius were more than welcome. He might be a gangster and a thief, but he seems to also be a man of some honor — no matter how dubious it may seem. He and Luther showed instant chemistry, and I think Luther has to be more than a little impressed with how unfazed George remained during his interrogation.
Patrick Malahide did a fantastic job with George, giving him just the right amount of humour and charm while maintaining a bold and deadly intensity. George Cornelius is a man you would certainly love to have a drink with, but who you would never want to get on the wrong side of…unless of course, you’re Luther, in which case you wouldn’t care. 😉
And if you want a little glimpse of how George Cornelius gets away, watch the Preview for episode two clip. I’ve also embedded the “You rang, my lord” scene. Both are from BBC’s YouTube page.