Enjoyable ride with charming grifters
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.