Saturday, 8 January 2011


« ... Best notify my next of kin, this wheel shall explode. »

Hustle - Series Seven, Episode One. After convincing Japanese investors that they could help to reduce the UK's deficit, Mickey Stone and his team are ready to choose another mark among a dreamy line-up. But the niece of their friend Eddie is scammed by Wendy Stanton, a vile modelling agent now put top of the gang's list.

Our favourite ethical con men are back for a seventh series of Hustle. Original cast members Adrian Lester (Mickey 'Bricks' Stone), Robert Glenister (Ash Morgan), Robert Vaughn (Albert Stroller) and Rob Jarvis (Eddie) return. Matt Di Angelo and Kelly Adams, aboard since series five as brother/sister duo Sean and Emma Kennedy, are there too. Hustle creator and supremo Tony Jordan writes this premiere episode, a classic payback story masterfully enhanced by a subtle dose of social satire and an unexpected twist.

Social satire and political subtext are clearly Jordan's forte: in the delightfully cruel pre-credit sequence Mickey and Ash, on the behalf of "David and Nick", tour some Japanese businessmen in a bus and convince them that the UK's government must get rid of "hefty" assets, as growth and austerity cuts will not suffice to alleviate the deficit issue (« We may well have another Greece on our hands. ») And they sell them the Houses of Parliament!

Far from the so-called "innocuous escapism" image of the show, Tony Jordan goes on in the same mood, with a blatant sadistic glee, when he introduces the team's possible marks: Jeremy Garrett MP ("Running the country"), Judge Stanley Mead ("Court in the act") and Viscount Manley ("Complete arse"). But the Hustlers drop these glorious representatives of the "elite" in favour of the equally sinister and stupid Wendy Stanton, the CEO of a modelling scam (ironically called Model Devotion), whose latest victim is Eddie's niece.

Brilliantly portrayed by Anna Chancellor, failed model turned failed agent Wendy could be the dark triplet sister of Ab Fab's Edina and Patsy - with lines such as « Tell her to come back when she's got an eating disorder, » or « I don't care if she's an hemophiliac. Either she has her tits done or she doesn't get the job. » Mickey is appalled by the woman and arranges a business meeting between her and emerging fashion guru Hilary King - i.e. Mickey himself, with Sean posing as his "fashionable" personal assistant.

Both also impersonate two US officials in order to impress a receptionist of the "Diplomatic Office of America" (with a priceless « Susan, how much do you love your country? ») The regular cast seems to have great fun playing their "characters's characters", particularly Robert Glenister's Ash as "Nick Parker" and "Humps"- whose fictional brother "Piers" (Piers!) is the nail in the coffin of Wendy's cupidity. Two years after their arrival, Matt DiAngelo and Kelly Adams have succeeded in erasing the memories of their predecessors and have contributed to rebuild Hustle.

Except for Wendy's surreal scene with Tchaikovsky's 1812 and some irritating camera effects, this episode (directed by John McKay) is the perfect series opener. The simultaneous twist near the end is nicely executed ("Jeremy Garrett MP - Remember him?")

« What's with the hanky?
- You don't wanna know. »

No comments: