Saturday, 22 January 2011


Hustle - Series Seven, Episode Three. Marcus Wendell (Michael Brandon), an American casino owner and notorious grifter-buster, is in London to open a new establishment. Marcus claims that Charlie Stroller, the great-grandfather of Albert (Robert Vaughn) was the first ever cheater caught by his ancestors.

Albert wants to clear Charlie's name with the help of Mickey (Adrian Lester). But Marcus knows everything about them and the rest of the team.

The BBC One con artist drama is back into brilliance territory after last week's mildly interesting episode. Hustle is basically a modern-day Mission: Impossible and, like Chris Bucknall on the previous series, writer James Payne gets the essence of that. Payne creates the worthiest adversary of Mickey and the gang since Toby Baxter (Patrick Bergin) in series five: Marcus Wendell, played by the legendary Michael Brandon (Dempsey and Makepeace). Marcus is a clever but arrogant casino owner who ignores nothing about Mickey and the gang. He also prides himself that the founders of his casino empire covered Albert Stroller's "great granddaddy" with shame.

Mickey considers him as their equal as the man knows every tricks in the book. Will Clive Ban, a genius but grouchy forger (Roger Lloyd-Pack at the summit of his art), a 19th century roulette wheel, a sat nav and a fake auction be enough to avoid our favourite grifters to finish their careers on Wendell's wall of indignity (the photos of all the cheaters or grifters caught by the family). Typical Hustle at its best, with Matt Di Angelo's Sean fortunately less discrete than in the last couple of weeks and a great Ash. How come Robert Glenister has not already the main role in a new BBC or ITV drama series?

It's nice to see Robert Vaughn in top shape, almost as the Napoleon Solo of Return of The Man from UNCLE. Director Roger Goldby avoids the Birmingham as London "Monty Berman/ITC" feeling of some episodes with good visual ideas and a decent amount of effects and CGI. The twist is as often one inch to far-fetched but it doesn't ruin the pleasure, and there's even a beautiful conversation scene between Mickey and Albert ("The humiliation of the father") with some superb incidental music.

Next week: Will writer Chris Bucknall amazes us like last year?

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