Hustle digs into familiar but fertile ground in the second episode of the new series, when leader Mickey introduces his New Recruits to the long con, and all its vagaries.
From the outset of this series there has been a slightly tongue in cheek underlying message about con men: that they can only really operate with the help of a genuinely corrupt and greedy mark. In this story, Mickey uses their latest project to demonstrate to new girl Emma Kennedy that emotional content is vital, otherwise it’s just about money – and not actually any fun.
To ably demonstrate this, he’s found two entirely unscrupulous targets, played wonderfully by John MacMillan (Harry Fielding) and Adam James (Carlton Wood). They run a business that predicates on the intellectual property of others, causing one man to commit suicide.
We first meet them throwing out a PR company who came along with a lack-lustre promotion for their latest stolen idea, ‘Spider’s Web’, a security system for priceless paintings.
The first phase of the hustle is to get as much information as possible, which is where they dispatch Sean Kennedy (Matt Di Angelo) to a city bar to gather information, which he gets but comes back blind drunk. Is it me or has Matt Di Angelo’s forte become playing naïve, under confident yet well meaning characters?
Anyway, the show really gets going when Mickey and Emma intercept the entirely vile Harry and Carlton in a bar and convince them that they’re a hot-shot PR agency with a brilliant idea to promote ‘Spider’s Web’. Their idea is that the security system is so secure that theft insurance isn’t necessary, and that they should promote the product on that basis with a famous panting that’s about to be put on display.
The scam, if you haven’t guessed it, is that the crew will steal the painting, potentially bankrupting their marks unless they hand over the rights to the patents they stole, and a large chunk of cash!
How this is achieved was slightly predictable to anyone that’s seen The Thomas Crown Affair (either version), or Inside Man, or a dozen other crime adventures I could mention, but it’s jolly entertaining seeing them execute the ‘heist’.
The crescendo moment, when Carlton realises he’s been conned, and goes mental, was a delight, especially with the terminally thick Harry not actually understanding the nuances of what just happened. Excellent work, guys, even if the Carlton character bears a slightly uncanny visual resemblance and chilling personality double of someone I actually know. Creepy.
So what’s good about this Hustle episode, and what’s less wonderful? For the most part, it’s Hustle-by-the-numbers, but Kelly Adams as Emma is moving into her character’s persona smoothly, even if she keeps reminding me of Kylie. Her brother’s persona lacks any real depth, but they’ve four more episodes for Matt Di Angelo and the writers to flesh him out.
There was an exceptionally nice scene between Emma and Mickey in the back of a taxi where he tries to hit on her, and is deftly but not definitively rebuffed. In the same way that previously some of the best interplay came between Mickey and Jaime Murray’s Stacie in the early series, there is obviously some mileage planned in their relationship. There was also some significantly above TV quality cinematography using natural light on the roof of a London riverside building. Hustle can look wonderful at times.
What didn’t shake my tree was the lack of even a cameo by Robert Vaughn as Albert, but I guess you can’t have everything!