ProsA fresh take on con artist genre
ConsAt just six episodes, the season is definitely on the short side (although, in the producers' defence, Hustle has clearly gone for quality over quantity).
Starring Adrian Lester and Robert Vaughn, Hustle tells the story of a group of sharp London con artists who target the rich and greedy.
It's clear from the jazzy opening credits of Hustle, as well as its use of snappy dialogue, clever plotting and good-looking protagonists, that this is a cool and stylish show. It's more than that, though â€“ Hustle is that rare television phenomenon, a show with style and substance. Not only are its main characters good-looking, they're smart and likeable too. It doesn't take long for the viewer to get firmly on their side in Hustle's first season, even though, strictly speaking, they're bad guys, out to relieve the rich and greedy of their money.
Led by the charismatic Michael Stone, better known as Mickey Bricks (played by Adrian Lester), Hustle's con artists are a family of sorts, looking out for each other. The rest of the team include veteran actor Robert Vaughan who plays gambler Albert Stroller, the team's expert at finding suitable marks; Robert Glenister as fixer Ash Morgan, Jaime Murray as femme fatale Stacie Monroe, who is as sharp as they come; and Marc Warren as young upstart Danny Blue, eager to learn the art of the long con.
Season 1 of Hustle begins with Mickey getting the old team together for one last con, and their philosophy is made clear. In a freeze frame that would be characteristic of the series, the team look at the camera and explain the first rule of the con: "You can't cheat an honest man." Dishonest men, however, are a different story. Their marks want something for nothing, and the team aims to give them nothing for something.
Hustle is set against a determinedly modern London â€“ there are no clichÃ©d shots of the Tower of London or Big Ben here. Instead, we see a backdrop of shimmering glass and steel, with sleek interiors and hard edges. It's an appropriate setting for this world of sharp suits and equally sharp minds, complete with freeze frames and knowing looks to the camera, making the viewer complicit in the con.
Not that the viewer is always completely aware of what's going on. The plotting occasionally borders on the fiendish, with things only becoming clear in the final scene. In Hustle, little is as it seems.
While Hustle generally plays it straight, there are the occasional inspired fantasy moments. In one episode, the gang are working on taking down violent gangster Frank, who has beaten up Albert and needs to pay. His obsession with the movies offers the team a way in, and paves the way for a dance sequence reminiscent of another television classic from the BBC, The Singing Detective. Only the BBC can pull off this sort of stuff.
The Hustle Season 1 DVD
includes the six episodes of the season, plus a two-part documentary
on the making of the series, and the producers' hopes for Season Two. Short, but definitely sweet.