En­joy­able ride with charm­ing grifters

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

THIS fran­tic crime-ca­per se­ries set in con­tem­po­rary Lon­don about a group of highly ef­fi­cient con­fi­dence artists on for any ca­per is as hip as tele­vi­sion drama gets.

The con­cept of the pro­gram is ar­ro­gantly cool, just like its char­ac­ters. They tar­get de­serv­ing bul­lies and con, scam, grift or swindle them of their cash, rob­bing them of their su­per­cil­ious­ness in the process.

Th­ese amoral lurk mer­chants are won­der­ful fig­ures of ro­mance and in­trigue. Their va­ri­eties of de­cep­tion ( car­ried off with cun­ning the­atri­cal­ity) re­flect sto­ry­telling tra­di­tions dat­ing back to an­cient times.

The five grifters ( played stylishly by Adrian Lester, Jaime Mur­ray, Robert Glenis­ter, Marc War­ren and Robert Vaughn) are ma­gi­cians of the crime world, re­ly­ing on their brains and smooth tongues, never on guns or vi­o­lence. They are trick­sters, ped­dling tales of hid­den power and the se­duc­tive charm of magic, hyp­no­tism and trans­gres­sive temp­ta­tions.

Hus­tle fo­cuses on the act of sto­ry­telling, which is about con­vinc­ing an au­di­ence to be­lieve some­thing that never re­ally hap­pened. It also in­ves­ti­gates the idea of de­cep­tion, which is all about us. In­ter­net get­rich-quick schemes and Nige­rian bank frauds leap to mind.

In this episode, though, it’s the gulli­bil­ity and greed of the tabloid news­pa­per in­dus­try that gets hus­tled when the old­est friend of Sta­cie Mon­roe ( played by Mur­ray), the only fe­male mem­ber of the crew, is in­volved in a news­pa­per’s scur­rilous false ex­pose. Shamed by claims that she de­frauded the chil­dren’s char­ity for which she worked, Sta­cie’s friend at­tempts sui­cide.

Sting with a zing:

’ s stylish team of con artists

Sta­cie, an aveng­ing an­gel, goes af­ter the pa­per. Scum­bag ed­i­tor Fran­cis Owen ( Kenneth Cran­ham) and smarmy re­porter Tim Millen ( Paul Kaye) are the marks, even­tu­ally ex­posed by a fraud­u­lent but en­tirely con­vinc­ing royal fam­ily scoop in­volv­ing the Queen Mother, a re­cruited dop­pel­ganger and her long-lost son; and a mys­te­ri­ous visit to Lon­don’s East End at the height of the Blitz.

As usual, the plot is ab­surdly labyrinthine, the zany tone that of screw­ball com­edy, the look a kind of post­mod­ern 1960s pas­tiche, and the crew charm­ing if thor­oughly psy- chotic. For all their lan­guid pos­ing and pos­tur­ing in the stylised set­tings, th­ese are not peo­ple you would ever want to en­counter in any sting. Though Mur­ray can take me for a ride any day.

The show it­self, like all thrillers, is a glo­ri­fied con game, with di­rec­tor S. J. Clark­son as mas­ter scam­mer and view­ers the gullible marks. We see only what he and writer David Cum­mings want us to see, and at any time it can all re­veal it­self to be a fa­cade. Hus­tle presents us with a thor­oughly en­joy­able bat­tle of wits as we try to out­think the crew’s ruses.

Graeme Blundell


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